You’ve done it. You waited a year for your COVID-19 vaccination, waited another three weeks to schedule a vaccination appointment, then waited in line for an hour for said vaccine. Now that you’ve had both shots, you think you’re set. But there’s one more thing you should know before re-entering the world—one more crucial detail before you step into a theme park or movie theater. There’s a key ingredient missing in the vaccine that doctors can’t give you; it’s up to you to secure it. What is so important that it dictates the success of all your efforts to get vaccinated?
The answer may shock you: it’s the amount of shut-eye you get on the first night of sleep.
You read that correctly. Sleep orchestrates your immune responses, including your cells’ ability to create antibodies to fight viruses. Sleep following vaccination (as opposed to staying awake) stimulates the secretion of immune-boosting hormones—such as growth hormone and dopamine—and lowers the concentration of stress hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine (Lange). Resting creates a hormonal environment ideal for lymphocyte production, resulting in the synthesis of antibodies.
Getting an adequate amount of sleep (7 to 9 hours for adults, depending on the individual) is especially crucial on the first night, immediately after the vaccine is administered. Sleep deprivation reduces vaccine efficacy: just one night of partial sleep loss weakened the participants’ immune responses to an influenza or hepatitis A vaccine by over 50% ten days later (Spiegel; Lange). 28 days after the hepatitis A vaccination, antibody titers were 97% lower in the sleep-deprived group compared to the control (Lange).
Even “catching up on your sleep” won’t do the trick: sleep deprivation during the critical period of vaccination reduced antibody production even when participants had a full week of recovery sleep afterwards (Spiegel).
With fewer than half of the antibodies present, “vaccinated” patients may be far more vulnerable than they think. This could result in a flood of hospital admissions and another wave of infections. Worryingly, our current insufficiently vaccinated population could detract from herd immunity, jeopardizing the safety of those whose health is too precarious to get vaccinated.
The impact of sleep on vaccine efficacy has broad implications for our sleep-deprived, coffee-dependent society. We worked hard this past year to coordinate vaccine efforts, which could be nullified if we don’t get the sleep we need. Apart from the usual reasons to get more sleep – better memory and concentration, lower risk of psychiatric and inflammatory disorders, and general wellbeing – it is imperative that you treat yourself to a full night’s rest after vaccination.
Do what you must: create a calendar event to sleep for a full 9 hours after your vaccination, take a bath with essential oils, or read a book. For the sake of the nation’s safety and health, get some rest.
Lange, Tanja, et al. “Sleep Enhances the Human Antibody Response to Hepatitis A Vaccination.” Psychosomatic Medicine, vol. 65, no. 5, Sept. 2003, pp. 831–35, doi:10.1097/01.PSY.0000091382.61178.F1.
Spiegel, Karine, et al. “Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Response to Immunization.” JAMA, vol. 288, no. 12, Sept. 2002, pp. 1471–72, doi:10.1001/jama.288.12.1469.
Last Fact Checked on May 22nd, 2021.