Too little sleep could make vaccination less effective

Summary: According to the researchers, six hours or less of sleep at the time of vaccination reduces the body’s antibody response.

Source: UCLA

How strongly a vaccine protects you may depend on getting enough sleep in the days before and after inoculation, according to a new meta-analysis examining the relationship between sleep duration and the body’s response to vaccination.

According to the multi-agency study published on March 13 in Current biology. Adults are generally recommended to get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night.

The meta-analysis included data on the association between sleep duration and antibody responses to influenza and hepatitis vaccines. Although comparable data on COVID-19 vaccination were not available, the researchers said their study highlighted the need to identify simple behavioral interventions, such as getting enough sleep, that could improve the response to vaccination against COVID-19 in the context of the ongoing pandemic.

The weakened antibody response in those with shortened sleep was so profound that it was similar to the drop in COVID-19 antibodies two months after vaccination with Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna injections.

It shows a revival
Sleeping less than six hours per night at the time of vaccination was associated with a strong decrease in antibody response. Image is in public domain

“We have already found that cognitive behavioral therapy, along with mindfulness, significantly improves insomnia and also normalizes various aspects of immunity, although it is not yet known whether treating insomnia can increase vaccine responses,” said Michael Irwin, MD, study co-author and director of the Cousins ​​Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

The researchers also looked at the data by gender, as women generally have a stronger vaccine response than men. There was a robust association between sleep duration and antibody response in men, but they said more data was needed for women because the studies did not control for changes in sex hormone levels, which are known to affect immune function.

Large-scale studies are also needed to determine when people should get enough sleep to promote an optimal vaccine response at the time of inoculation, the researchers said.

Other authors include Karine Spiegel, Amandine E. Rey, Anne Cheylus, Kirean Ayling, Christian Benedict, Tanja Lange, Aric A. Prather, Daniel J. Taylor and Eve Van Cauter. The authors have declared no competing interests directly related to this study.

About this news about sleep research and vaccination

Author: Jason Millman
Source: UCLA
Contact: Jason Millman – UCLA
Picture: Image is in public domain

Original research: Free access.
“A meta-analysis of associations between insufficient sleep duration and antibody response to vaccination” by Michael Irwin et al. Current biology


A meta-analysis of associations between insufficient sleep duration and antibody response to vaccination

Strong points

  • Insufficient sleep (<6 hours/night) around vaccination reduces antibody response
  • The reduction is similar to the decrease in COVID-19 vaccine antibodies over 2 months
  • The association seems robust in men, but more data are needed in women
  • Optimizing sleep duration at the time of vaccination may boost antibody response


Vaccination is a major strategy for controlling a viral pandemic. Simple behavioral interventions that could stimulate vaccine responses have not yet been identified. We performed meta-analyses to summarize the evidence linking the amount of sleep obtained in the days surrounding vaccination and antibody response in healthy adults.

Authors of included studies provided the information necessary to accurately estimate pooled effect sizes (ES) and 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs) and to examine gender differences.

The association between self-reported short sleep (<6 h/night) and reduced vaccine response did not meet our prespecified statistically significant criteria (total n=504, ages 18-85; overall ES (95% CI ) = 0.29 (-0.04, 0.63)).

Objectively assessed short sleep was associated with a large decrease in antibody response (total n = 304, ages 18-60; overall ES (95% CI) = 0.79 (0.40, 1.18)) . In men, the pooled ES was significant (overall ES (95% CI) = 0.93 (0.54, 1.33)), while it did not reach significance in women (overall ES (95% CI) = 0.42 (−0.49, 1.32)).

These results provide evidence that insufficient sleep duration significantly decreases the response to antiviral vaccination and suggests that obtaining an adequate amount of sleep during the days surrounding vaccination can enhance and prolong the humoral response.

Large-scale, well-controlled studies are urgently needed to define (1) the time window around inoculation when optimizing sleep duration is most beneficial, (2) the causes of the disparity between sexes in the impact of sleep on the response, and (3) the amount of sleep needed to protect the response.

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