Lack of Sleep Jeopardizes Potency of Vaccines

    • August 1, 2012

San Francisco―We’ve all heard that a good night’s sleep can yield major health benefits, but a new study by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar has found that losing sleep can reduce the effectiveness of vaccinations.

“Given that more and more Americans are grappling with chronic sleep deprivation, these findings should be a wake-up call to the public health community about the clear connection between sleep and health,” said Aric Prather, PhD, a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar at the University of California, Berkeley and the University of California, San Francisco.

According to Prather, this is the first study outside a sleep laboratory to confirm that one’s sleep affects how he or she responds to vaccinations. People who slept less than 6 hours per night were over 11.5 times more likely to be left unprotected by vaccines compared to those sleeping more than 7 hours nightly.

Researchers measured the sleep patterns of 125 adults who were administered the Hepatitis B vaccine, a course of three shots. Those who slept less mounted fewer antibodies to the vaccine and, according to blood tests taken at each stage of vaccination, these adults did not meet the standard of protection from the virus.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours as a healthy amount of daily sleep for adults. Adults who sleep less than 7 to 9 hours may be considered sleep deprived. Interestingly, the study found that the quality of sleep did not seem to affect the number of antibodies mounted, only the amount of sleep.

“Based on our findings and laboratory evidence, physicians and other health professionals who are administering vaccines may want to consider asking their patients about their sleep patterns first, since a lack of sleep may affect the efficacy of the vaccine,” said Prather.

The study, “Sleep and Antibody Resistance to Hepatitis B Vaccination,” will be published in the August 1st issue of Sleep, the journal for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

The research findings presented here are those of the researcher and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The RWJF Health & Society Scholars program is designed to build the nation’s capacity for research, leadership and policy change to address the broad range of factors that affect health. Additional information about RWJF Health & Society Scholars, including application information, can be found at

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About the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation focuses on the pressing health and health care issues facing our country. As the nation’s largest philanthropy devoted exclusively to health and health care, the Foundation works with a diverse group of organizations and individuals to identify solutions and achieve comprehensive, measurable, and timely change. For 40 years the Foundation has brought experience, commitment, and a rigorous, balanced approach to the problems that affect the health and health care of those it serves. When it comes to helping Americans lead healthier lives and get the care they need, the Foundation expects to make a difference in your lifetime. Follow the Foundation on Twitter ( or Facebook (