The study took place outside of a traditional lab setting and instead tracked participants in their ‘day-to-day’ sleep patterns outside of a controlled environment. Participants were middle-aged and researchers studied how their bodies reacted to a ‘standard three-dose hepatitis B’ vaccine.
Findings revealed that those who got less than six hours of sleep a night on average fared much worse than those who slept more when it came to antibody response. In fact, they were found 11.5 times more likely to be unprotected by an immunization.
Lead author Dr. Aric Prather pointed out that this study shows concrete evidence of a connection between inadequate sleep and being more prone to infectious disease.
Sleep, as we know, is linked to a number of health factors. Lack of sleep can affect children’s performance in school, weaken our immune systems, leave us unable to remain alert at work, and even lead to increased stress and weight gain. Recent data suggests that as much as 30 percent of Americans aren’t getting the rest they need, falling well below the recommended 7-9 hours a night. This is just one small but crucial piece of the puzzle when it comes to our nation’s declining health.
Researchers speculate that the body’s weakened reaction to immunizations may be related to changes in hormone levels caused by disruptions in the body’s internal clock. This is because when our sleep cycle is thrown off, our body begins experiencing altered levels of the hormone melatonin, which increases at night due to lack of light.
In short, when we spend too much time in light and consequently don’t get enough rest, it can affect other hormones that experts believe could potentially increase risks of cancer, diabetes and other serious health-related issues.
Prather ultimately hopes Americans will start taking sleep more seriously as is it’s so intimately connected to our health. Personally, sleep is the one area that’s so easy to push aside because I have so many other things to squeeze into my day, like cooking healthy meals and getting plenty of exercise. But this serves as an excellent reminder that getting my rest should be as high a priority as everything other area of my personal health.