Experts believe sleep maximises effectiveness of COVID vaccine

Are you getting enough sleep?

On World Sleep Day (19 March) experts believe now is the time to reprioritise sleep with sufficient sleep being seen as an important factor in maximising the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines.

University of South Australia (UniSA) sleep experts explained that sufficient sleep is known to boost the immune system and will aid the performance of the vaccines.

In Australia, four in every 10 people suffer from a lack of sleep. Globally, around 62 per cent of adults feel that they don’t sleep well when they go to bed. 

UniSA sleep and fatigue researcher Dr Raymond Matthews says sleep is an essential factor for maintaining good health and wellbeing, especially during the pandemic.

“At the moment, we’re all very focused on staying healthy – sanitising our hands and keeping socially distanced – but what many people forget is that sleep plays an essential role in our overall health,” Dr Matthews explained. 

Read more: COVID jab or flu shot first?

“Sleep plays a vital role in our body’s immune system. When we get enough sleep, our white blood cells can more efficiently fight invading bacteria or viruses. But when we cut back on sleep, the reverse happens, our white blood cells are reduced, and we end up with a compromised immune system. 

“For example, one laboratory study restricted sleep of healthy participants to four hours a night for six nights before administration of an influenza vaccine. Up to 10 days later, the sleep-deprived individuals possessed half the number of vaccine antibodies than the non-sleep-deprived controls. 

“Understanding the importance of sleep is critically important, especially now, as Australia starts to administer COVID-19 vaccines.

Read more: Do you need to register for a COVID vaccine

“We’re urged to get at least eight hours of sleep a night, but with the daily pressures of work, school, and family life, it’s often too easy to sacrifice,” Dr Matthews says. 

If you’re struggling to get a good night’s sleep, there are things you can do:

  • choose light, rather than heavy meals in the evening
  • keep your bedroom dark, cool and quiet
  • avoid bright light in the evening – especially light from phones and devices – and make sure you get enough sunlight in the morning
  • exercise during the day
  • avoid cigarettes, caffeine, and alcohol.

“Having a relaxing a bedtime routine can help. This could include turning the TV off earlier, or reading a book in bed, but really, it’s whatever makes you feel calm and comfortable,” Dr Matthews said.

“Of course, if you find you just can’t sleep, sometimes it’s best to get up and do something relaxing until you start to feel tired. 

“These times are no doubt challenging, but sound sleep is something we should all prioritise, especially during COVID-19.”

If part of the reason you are struggling to achieve good quality sleep through the night is due to frequent trips to the toilet, throughout the night, the Continence Foundations of Australia says you should not be treating this condition as normal.

The condition, known as nocturia, is associated with negative effects on mental health, physical health and quality of life.

“People are often surprised to hear that, actually, getting up multiple times at night to pass urine isn’t what we would consider normal,” explained continence specialist Janie Thompson.

“It is definitely something to speak to your doctor or nurse continence specialist about. They can look at what might be causing this and how it can be improved so you can get more sleep.

“It can be risky with trips to the toilet in the dark and tiredness from lack of sleep presenting a falls risk, especially in older people. Nocturia can get more common as we age.”

It’s important that people seek medical advice if they have nocturia symptoms as it is commonly linked to medical conditions including: heart problems, kidney problems, diabetes, swollen ankles, an overactive bladder, constipation, an enlarged prostate.

Do you get enough sleep at night? What do you do to improve the quality of your sleep at night?

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Written by Ben