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Sleep Affects Effectiveness of Vaccines

Update Date: Aug 01, 2012 10:10 AM EDT

Sleep plays an important role in the regulation of the immune system and a lack of sleep may have detrimental effects on the immune system that are integral to vaccine response.

A new study led by a UCSF researcher shows that poor sleep can reduce the effectiveness of vaccines and is the first performed outside a sleep laboratory to show that sleep duration is directly tied to vaccine immune response. The study will be published in the August issue of the journal "SLEEP."

Past research has shown that poor sleep can make one prone to illnesses such as upper respiratory infections. 

"With the emergence of our 24-hour lifestyle, longer working hours, and the rise in the use of technology, chronic sleep deprivation has become a way of life for many Americans," said lead author Aric Prather. "These findings should help raise awareness in the public health community about the clear connection between sleep and health," Prather said.

Researchers gave 125 adults in good health a dosage of hepatitis B vaccinations to explore whether sleep duration, sleep efficiency, and sleep quality at home would impact immune processes important in the protection against infection. Antibodies are manufactured by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign objects such as viruses.

Seventy women and 55 men between the ages of 40 and 60 who lived in Pennsylvania participated in the study. They didn't smoke and were in fairly good health. Each participant was administered the standard three-dose hepatitis B vaccine; the first and second dose were administered a month apart, followed by a booster dose at six months.

Antibody levels were measured prior to the second and third vaccine injection and six months after the final vaccination to determine whether participants had mounted a "clinically protective response."

All the participants completed sleep diaries detailing their bedtime, wake time and sleep quality, while 88 subjects also wore electronic sleep monitors known as actigraphs.

The researchers found that people who slept fewer than six hours on average per night were far less likely to mount antibody responses to the vaccine and thus were nearly 12 times more likely to be unprotected by the vaccine than people who slept more than seven hours on average. Sleep quality did not affect response to vaccinations. Of the 125 participants, 18 did not receive adequate protection from the vaccine. "

The researchers noted that sleeping fewer than six hours conferred a significant risk of being unprotected as compared with sleeping more than seven hours per night. 

"Based on our findings and existing laboratory evidence, sleep may belong on the list of behavioral risk factors that influence vaccination efficacy," said Prather. "While there is more work to be done in this area, in time physicians and other health care professionals who administer vaccines may want to consider asking their patients about their sleep patterns, since lack of sleep may significantly affect the potency of the vaccination."

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours sleep a night. 

For tips on a better night's sleep, see:http://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/tips_for_a_better_nights_sleep/index.html

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