For many years now we’ve been well aware of the many ways that sleep has an impact on your health.
One of those ways becomes more apparent in the winter months – the impact sleep has on how well your immune system can fight off infection.
If you’re sleeping less than 7 hours a night, then you’re going to struggle to avoid sickness. And the fewer hours of sleep you’re getting, the more that risk increases.
In a study carried out at UCSF between 2007 and 2011 by Dr Aric Prather, the link between sleep duration and infection rates for the flu virus were explored.
The study found that there was a direct relationship between how much sleep you get, and how likely you are to come down with the flu.
In the group of participants who were getting 7+ hours of sleep a night, the rate of infection was about 17%
When sleep duration dropped below this, the infection rate steadily increased:
- For people getting 6 – 7 hours of sleep the infection rate was 23%.
- If the average length of sleep was 5 – 6 hours the rate increased to 30%.
- And when you’re getting 5 hours of sleep per night or less, the rate of infection jumped to just under 45%.
So for the group of people who were sleeping 5 hours a night or less, the rate of infection virtually tripled.
That is some pretty strong evidence that if you’re serious about staying healthy through the flu season, then you really need to be paying attention to your sleep.
And this is especially true where your work requires you to be in close contact with people who are often sick – hospital staff and teachers are two examples of people who’d be at higher risk of catching the flu.
Take Your Shot & Increase It’s Effectiveness
Now you may have already been aware of the fact that your sleep has an impact on your immune system.
What you might not realize is that sleep in the days leading up to your flu shot can have a massive impact on the ability of that flu shot to keep your protected through the winter months.
There was a very interesting study carried out in 2002 that investigated sleep before flu vaccinations.
Participants were restricted to just 4 hours of sleep a night for the 6 nights immediately leading into a flu vaccination.
The researchers discovered that this led to the participants producing an immune response that was less than 50% of that which the regular sleepers were able to produce.
And what was even more interesting was that after the sleep deprived participants were given as many as 3 weeks of recovery sleep, their immune system never made up the ground that they’d lost initially.
So sleeping poorly in the days leading up to your vaccination can impact the ability of that flu shot to fight off the flu for the whole flu season.
Time Your Flu Shots
So what can you learn from this study?
Well for me the obvious takeaway is that you should pay attention to your sleep in the days leading up to a flu shot.
If you find that you’re getting less than 6 hours per night for the 2 or 3 nights beforehand, you might want to think about pushing the shot back a few days.
If you’re going to get a shot, you might as well make sure that you’re doing everything you can to give it the best possible chance of fighting off those viruses.
Combine this with good solid sleep through the winter months, and you’re going to have the best possible chance of coming through the flu season unscathed.