Sleep, Your Immune System and Covid 19

By: Matt Berg

Thanks to Covid-19, there is no shortage of uncertainty regarding the future of our health. As you look to options available to protect your health, whether or not you plan to get the vaccine, it's worth reviewing the role that sleep plays as a tool in the fight against Covid-19.

In a 7-day study, researchers tracked a group of subjects’ sleep patterns using wearables (actigraphy). Participants were then administered a rhinovirus (common cold) in their nasal cavity. Subjects who slept less than six hours a night the week before were 4.2x times more likely to catch the cold compared to those who got more than seven hours of sleep. Even more interesting, sleep was statistically more important in predicting the likelihood of catching the cold virus more than any other factor they accounted for including age, gender, stress, race, education or smoking. [1]

In another study, two groups of healthy patients were vaccinated with the Hepatitis A vaccine. One group was allowed to sleep regularly and the other required to remain awake for 24 hours following their injection. Hepatitis antibodies were measured over the following 30 days. Researchers found that those who had regular sleep following the vaccination had 2x higher levels of beneficial antibodies than those not allowed to sleep four weeks later. Showing that sleep enhances the hepatitis A virus (HAV)-specific T helper (Th) cell response to vaccination. [2]

Two groups of subjects who either slept (black circle, thick line) or stayed awake (white circle, thin line) in the night following inoculations.

Our innate immunity is comprised of many moving parts - a core component of which are natural killer (NK) cells (a type of white blood cell). In a study researchers kept participants awake from 3-7 AM for a single night of sleep loss. After a single night of sleep deprivation NK cell activity was reduced to a level 72% of their baseline levels. Interestingly though, after a night of resumed sleep, NK cell activity had returned to baseline levels. Showing that even small a sleep loss can reduce parts of our innate immunity. [3]

It is important to stay vigilant during these times and alert to the rapidly changing Covid-19 situation. And remember, you have control over very meaningful tools to strengthen your immune system and health. Don’t forget to call on sleep, one of your most important allies in the fight against Covid-19.