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Poor Sleep Affects Potency of Vaccines

Research has shown that poor sleep can make people susceptible to illnesses, such as upper respiratory infections. To explore whether sleep duration, sleep efficiency, and sleep quality—assessed at home and not in a controlled sleep laboratory—would impact immune processes that are important for protection against infection, the researchers investigated the antibody response to hepatitis B vaccinations in adults in good health. Antibodies are manufactured by the immune system to identify and neutralize foreign pathogens, such as viruses.

The study involved 125 people (70 women and 55 men) between 40 and 60 years old. All of the participants were nonsmokers.

Each participant received the standard three-dose hepatitis B vaccine; the first and second doses were administered a month apart, followed by a booster dose at 6 months.

Antibody levels were measured before the second and third vaccine injection and 6 months after the final vaccination to determine whether the participants had mounted a clinically protective response. All of the participants completed sleep diaries detailing their bedtime, wake time, and sleep quality. Eighty-eight subjects also wore electronic sleep monitors known as actigraphs.

The researchers found that people who slept fewer than 6 hours on average per night were far less likely to mount antibody responses to the vaccine and therefore were far more likely (11.5 times) to be unprotected by the vaccine than people who slept more than 7 hours on average. Sleep quality did not affect the response to vaccinations.

Of the 125 participants, 18 did not receive adequate protection from the vaccine.

The researchers stressed that sleep plays an important role in the regulation of the immune system. A lack of sleep, they said, may have detrimental effects on immune-system functions that are integral to a vaccine response.

"Based on our findings and existing laboratory evidence, sleep may belong on the list of behavioral risk factors that influence vaccination efficacy," said lead author Aric A. Prather, PhD.

For more information, read the news release from the University of California–San Francisco.

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