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Poor Sleep May Weaken Vaccine Response, Increasing Risk of Infection

A recent scientific study found that individuals who slept for less than six hours per night before and after vaccination had a weakened antibody response. The researchers suggest that promoting healthy sleep duration before immunization could improve vaccine effectiveness.

In reviewing data from previous studies, a team lead by researchers at the University of ChicagoFounded in 1890, the University of Chicago (UChicago, U of C, or Chicago) is a private research university in Chicago, Illinois. Located on a 217-acre campus in Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, near Lake Michigan, the school holds top-ten positions in various national and international rankings. UChicago is also well known for its professional schools: Pritzker School of Medicine, Booth School of Business, Law School, School of Social Service Administration, Harris School of Public Policy Studies, Divinity School and the Graham School of Continuing Liberal and Professional Studies, and Pritzker School of Molecular Engineering.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>University of Chicago and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm) found that individuals who had fewer than six hours of sleep per night in the days surrounding vaccination had a blunted antibody response. That indicates efforts to promote healthy sleep duration ahead of an immunization could be an easy way to improve vaccine effectiveness. The study was published on March 13 in the journal Current Biology.

“Insufficient sleep is a behavioral factor that can be corrected before vaccination and may not only strengthen, but also extend, the vaccine response.” — Eve Van Cauter, PhD

The latest work builds off a 2002 study by members of the team showing that restricting sleep in participants diminished their antibody response to influenza vaccination, leading to about half of the antibody levels seen in controls at 10 days after an inoculation. Their interest in the work was revived during the COVID-19First identified in 2019 in Wuhan, China, COVID-19, or Coronavirus disease 2019, (which was originally called "2019 novel coronavirus" or 2019-nCoV) is an infectious disease caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It has spread globally, resulting in the 2019–22 coronavirus pandemic.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns in 2020, when they began to connect with others who had studied this question and started to pull together the meta-analysis.

Across seven studies, which examined the impact of sleep duration on vaccination against viral illnesses such as influenza and hepatitis, the researchers found that insufficient sleep (defined as under six hours of sleep per night) in the days surrounding vaccination resulted in a decreased antibody response.

“Insufficient sleep is a behavioral factor that can be corrected before vaccination and may not only strengthen, but also extend, the vaccine response,” said Eve Van Cauter, PhD, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at UChicago and senior author on the meta-analysis. “We know that people respond differently to vaccination according to their age, sex, existing medical conditions and other factors that cannot be readily changed. Having an easily modifiable behavior that you can adjust around the time of your appointment gives you something you can control that is likely to improve your body’s response.”

Researchers analyzed seven studies to examine the impact of sleep duration on vaccine efficacy against viral illnesses like influenza and hepatitis. The results indicated that insufficient sleep, defined as less than six hours per night in the days surrounding vaccination, led to a reduced antibody response.

Importantly, the association was seen only in studies that objectively assessed sleep duration using wearable activity trackers or sleep studies in the laboratory. Self-reported sleep duration was not a predictor of vaccine response. The researchers noted that while the association was strong for men, it was weaker and not statistically significant for women. They argue this was likely due to the fact that none of the studies in women accounted for variations in sex hormone levels by menstrual cycle, use of contraceptives and menopausal status.

“The link between sleep and vaccine effectiveness could be a major concern for people with irregular work schedules, especially for shift workers who typically have reduced sleep duration,” said Van Cauter. “This is something people should consider planning around, to ensure that they are getting enough sleep in the week before and after their vaccines.”

Using the results of the meta-analysis and comparing them to known data on the antibody response to the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, the researchers estimated that the effects of insufficient sleep on the vaccine response would be equivalent to two months of waning antibodies after vaccination.

“Interestingly, we saw the same outcomes in both influenza, which is a respiratory virusA virus is a tiny infectious agent that is not considered a living organism. It consists of genetic material, either DNA or RNA, that is surrounded by a protein coat called a capsid. Some viruses also have an outer envelope made up of lipids that surrounds the capsid. Viruses can infect a wide range of organisms, including humans, animals, plants, and even bacteria. They rely on host cells to replicate and multiply, hijacking the cell's machinery to make copies of themselves. This process can cause damage to the host cell and lead to various diseases, ranging from mild to severe. Common viral infections include the flu, colds, HIV, and COVID-19. Vaccines and antiviral medications can help prevent and treat viral infections.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>virus, and hepatitis, which affects the liver, suggesting that this effect could extend to all kinds of viruses, including coronaviruses like SARS-CoV-2Severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) is the official name of the virus strain that causes coronavirus disease (COVID-19). Previous to this name being adopted, it was commonly referred to as the 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), the Wuhan coronavirus, or the Wuhan virus.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>SARS-CoV-2,” said Karine Spiegel, PhD, first author on the study and a research scientist at Inserm. “Overall, we see these results as a call to action.”

The researchers hope that the study will inspire more research into the phenomenon to clarify the effects on men and women, as well as to better understand how different vaccines may be impacted by sleep duration and how sleep might be optimized to promote a better vaccine response.

“We need much larger studies that control for the sex hormone environment in women in particular,” said Spiegel. “We also need a better definition of how many days of short sleep duration affect the antibody response, and whether it is just before the vaccine, or also during and after. Large-scale studies that consider behavioral, demographic and hormonal characteristics should provide new insights that will translate to measurable impacts on vaccine efficacy.”

“The immune system is not the only one modulated by sleep,” said Van Cauter. “Insufficient sleep is linked to other health issues such as an increased risk of developing obesity, diabetes or hypertension. Vaccines are an important tool for preventing and reducing the impacts of infectious diseases, and we think that you may be able to implement a simple behavioral change — getting enough sleep — to derive an immediate benefit. It’s cheap, and there is no adverse effect.”

For more on this research, see Sleep and Vaccination: The Critical Connection You Should Know About.

Reference: “A meta-analysis of the associations between insufficient sleep duration and antibody response to vaccination” by Karine Spiegel, Amandine E. Rey, Anne Cheylus, Kieran Ayling, Christian Benedict, Tanja Lange, Aric A. Prather, Daniel J. Taylor, Michael R. Irwin and Eve Van Cauter, 13 March 2023, Current Biology.
DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2023.02.017

The study included the additional authors Amandine E. Rey and Anne Cheylus of Inserm; Kieran Ayling of the University of NottinghamThe University of Nottingham is a public research university located in Nottingham, England. It was founded in 1881 and is one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in the country. The University of Nottingham has a wide range of academic programs and disciplines, including the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences, engineering, and medicine. It is known for its strong research and has a number of research centers and institutes focused on various fields, including environmental science, energy, and health. It is a member of the Russell Group, a group of leading research-intensive universities in the UK.” data-gt-translate-attributes=”[{“attribute”:”data-cmtooltip”, “format”:”html”}]”>University of Nottingham; Christian Benedict of Uppsala University; Tanja Lange of University of Lübeck; Aric A. Prather of the University of California San Francisco; Daniel J. Taylor of the University of Arizona; and Michael R. Irwin of the University of California Los Angeles.

Source: SciTechDaily