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Sleep loss may reduce vaccination efficacy

PainSci » bibliography » Prather et al 2020
Tags: sleep, medicine

One page on PainSci cites Prather 2020: Insomnia Until it Hurts

PainSci commentary on Prather 2020: ?This page is one of thousands in the bibliography. It is not a general article: it is focused on a single scientific paper, and it may provide only just enough context for the summary to make sense. Links to other papers and more general information are provided wherever possible.

This study showed that antibody production in response to flu vaccination may be reduced by sleep loss — even in healthy people, even when the sleep loss is minor.

83 healthy young people kept a sleep diary for two weeks, starting three days before a flu vaccination. The ones who slept the best for the two nights before their jab produced more antibodies to one of three kinds of vaccine, one and four months later. And, if sleep helps our immune systems respond more robustly to vaccination, it’s a safe bet that it probably helps with actual infection too. (And much else, no doubt.)

Maybe a small effect on only one kind of vaccine is not a clinically meaningful result. The authors do acknowledge that they “did not find strong effects of sleep” but also emphasized that they were also measuring the effect of minor sleep loss in healthy young people. In subjects like that, a strong effect would have been quite surprising. The fact they could measure any drop in antibody production seems highly suggestive of what would happen in more vulnerable subjects.

So the “just one study” caveat is needed, of course, but it’s exactly the kind of thing we have been seeing from other sleep research constantly for years. It plugs into the body of evidence quite neatly, and it seems like (yet another) reasonable incentive to emphasize rest.

~ Paul Ingraham

original abstract Abstracts here may not perfectly match originals, for a variety of technical and practical reasons. Some abstacts are truncated for my purposes here, if they are particularly long-winded and unhelpful. I occasionally add clarifying notes. And I make some minor corrections.

BACKGROUND: Growing evidence suggests that sleep plays an important role in immunological memory, including antibody responses to vaccination. However, much of the prior research has been carried out in the laboratory limiting the generalizability of the findings. Furthermore, no study has sought to identify sensitive periods prior to or after vaccination where sleep may have a stronger influence on antibody responses.

METHODS: Eighty-three healthy young adults completed 13 days of sleep diaries and received the trivalent influenza vaccine on day 3 of the study. Measures of self-reported sleep duration, sleep efficiency, and subjective sleep quality were assessed on each day. Antibody levels to the influenza viral strains were quantified at baseline and 1 and 4 months following influenza vaccination.

RESULTS: Shorter sleep duration, averaged over the collection period, was associated with fewer antibodies to the A/New Caledonia viral strain 1 and 4 months later, independent of baseline antibodies, age, sex, and cohort year. Analyses focused on nightly sleep on the days preceding and after the vaccination revealed that shorter sleep duration on the two nights before the vaccination predicted fewer antibodies 1 and 4 months later. Measures of self-reported sleep efficiency and subjective quality were unrelated to antibody responses to the influenza vaccination.

CONCLUSION: These findings provide further support for an association between sleep duration and antibody responses to the influenza vaccine and suggest that perhaps sleep on nights prior to vaccination are critical. If replicated, these findings may support sleep as a target for enhancing vaccination efficacy.

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