Are you on the edge of your seat waiting to finally get your COVID-19 vaccination? Eager to put that source of stress behind you and move on with your life?
A lot of us are.
And if you want to get the absolute strongest, most effective immunity you can from your vaccine, experts say there’s something you can do – try getting some extra sleep.
We know all too well how important it is to get enough sleep
For physical energy, for mental alertness, for emotional balance and more. We’ve also come to learn that sleep has a huge impact on your immune system.
According to American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) president Dr. Kannan Ramar, who issued an academy news release on the subject, “As COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed, it is of utmost importance that patients continue to prioritize their sleep to maintain optimal health. Getting sufficient, high-quality sleep on a regular basis strengthens your body’s immune system and optimizes your response to a vaccine.”
That means get your ZZZZ’s when you get your vaccine.
The science speaks
A 2020 study on flu vaccines published in the International Journal of Behavioral Medicine showed they were more effective in patients who slept well for two nights leading up to the day of their shots.
It wasn’t the only study to show this result. Numerous studies have been conducted that show direct links between sleep hygiene and Hepatitis A and B vaccinations, flu vaccinations, and general immune response. In fact, neuroscientist Dr. Matthew Walker (bestselling author of Why We Sleep and specialist in the relationship between sleep and health) has said bluntly: “Insufficient sleep in the week before getting a flu shot can lead to the production of less than 50% of the normal antibody response – a reaction that would render the flu shot largely ineffective.”
It’s also important to get to bed after your vaccination.
“The role of sleep in boosting innate and acquired immune response is significant” says Dr. Khurshid, director of the UMMHC/UMMS Center for Neuromodulation at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Westborough, Massachusetts. “All people, particularly health workers, should be aware of the immunity-boosting effects of sleep. Studies have shown that normal sleep after vaccination strengthens the immune response against an invading antigen, and this immunity-boosting effect of sleep is clinically significant.”
Khurshid’s conclusion? “A good night’s sleep before and after vaccination could be very advantageous.”
What’s all this about sleep hygiene?
If you haven’t heard it before, sleep hygiene is a term we sometimes throw around – and no, it doesn’t have to do with whether or not you remembered to floss your teeth before bed (though really you should – ask my dentist).
It means setting up good practices and routines that you stick to every night in order to make sure you get the best sleep you can.
They’re tips everyone can use (whether you have sleep apnea or not) and are good to keep in mind as you get ready for your vaccination, since the better sleep you get before and after the better it’ll work.
If you’ve slipped into some bad sleep habits, here are some reliable tips to help you get the best sleep you can:
- Stick to a routine. Try to go to bed at around the same time every night if you can, and look to get about 7-8 hours of sleep at least.
- Set the scene – make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and free of distractions like TV. Make sure your bed is comfortable, and set the temperature on the cool side if you can.
- Put your phone to sleep too – exposure to blue light from screens like phones and tablets actually sets you brain on wakeful mode. The wavelengths trick your brain into thinking it’s the middle of the day, so turn screens off at least half an hour before bed (and maybe pick up a relaxing book or do some meditation instead). Also make sure to turn off notifications so your phone doesn’t keep tempting you at night.
- Go easy on the caffeine – coffee, tea, soft drinks, chocolate, energy drinks… the list goes on. Caffeine stays in your system for hours after consumption, so make sure you lay off after about 3PM.
- Go easy on the alcohol, sugar and fatty foods – it’s well documented that consuming these too close to bedtime will have a negative impact on the quality of your sleep – pizza and beer right before bed? Maybe not the best plan.
- Get outside! Making sure to get lots of natural light exposure during the day will help keep your natural circadian rhythm regulated.