Simple recommendations on how to vary your sleep patterns and training volume and intensity to maximise the impact of your COVID vaccine

Within the near future, many of you will receive invitations to have your first Coronavirus jab.  This is a momentous occasion for each of us, as it marks the pathway back towards some sort of normality, and hopefully the opportunity to race.  Before you get your vaccination, there are some areas that you should consider carefully.

Sleep and vaccine efficacy

Several studies have shown that immunity (once vaccinated) is more successful if you regularly achieve over 7 hours of sleep per night. Note that this isn’t 7 hours in bed, but 7 hours of actual sleep. To achieve this you’ll probably need to be in bed each night for more than 7.5 hours.  There have been several studies showing that vaccines appear to be more effective when individuals get sufficient sleep in the days prior to receiving the injections. One study in the International Journal of Behavioural Medicine (1) showed the effectiveness of the flu jab.  Another study published in Sleep (Journal of the Sleep Research Society) showed similar results with a Hepatitis B vaccine (2).  There is additional research highlighting the fact that higher levels of stress in the post vaccination period led to poorer antibody response (3).

This coincides with other data which shows that reduced sleep lowers immunity (4) and leaves individuals vulnerable to other infections. Apparently, this appears to be linked to human growth hormone produced during periods of slow wave sleep (deep sleep) and the reduced production when sleep is limited.

The volume of research is not huge and the researchers do state that this requires more investigations.  But given the knowledge that less than optimal sleep often reduces immunological response, taking preemptive action would not be a bad strategy.

Vaccine side effects

A recent study by Whoop (5) showed that of the 1200 users who reported having their first jab, the majority showed no signs of decreased recovery afterwards. However, 22% did show significantly elevated resting heart rate (>10% increase) and 29% showed significantly lower HRV (>20% reduction).  I can concur with this, having just received my first vaccine. The following day I felt cold and very achy, like I was coming down with a cold. My sleep was poor and while I did notice raised RHR, my HRV was not significantly lower.  The symptoms lasted for around 36 hours although I had a very sore left upper arm for 3-4 days post injection.

Simple recommendations on how to vary your sleep patterns and training volume and intensity to maximise the impact of your COVID vaccine

Sleep – If you are not currently getting 7 hours of good quality sleep each night, then take action to up your sleep volume leading up to your vaccination, and maintain this going forward through to your second vaccine.  Doing so will have wider benefits for you beyond just vaccine efficacy. I have yet to come across a situation where getting more sleep is a bad thing.

If you have a few days’ notice of your injection, lower your training load (duration and intensity) and get more sleep so that you can strengthen your immune system.  Also, plan a lighter training load for the 2-3 days post injection. You may or may not have symptoms, but a lighter training will help your body to respond more positively.  During this post-vaccine time, also think about reducing your overall stress.  And do note, training is a stressor and it affects the sympathetic hormonal system (fight or flight).  Hence the need for you to go a bit easier, thereby giving the vaccine the best chance of working its magic.

In the long run, a few days of reduced training load will have no negative consequences and in fact it will no doubt be a positive, giving your body more time to adapt to previous training load and the vaccine.

Best wishes and stay healthy!

1) – Temporal Links Between Self-Reported Sleep and Antibody Responses to the Influenza Vaccine Aric A. PratherSarah D. PressmanGregory E. Miller & Sheldon Cohen 

International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

2) Sleep and Antibody Response to Hepatitis B Vaccination 

Aric A. Prather, PhDMartica Hall, PhDJacqueline M. Fury, BSDiana C. Ross, MSN, RNMatthew F. Muldoon, MD, MPHSheldon Cohen, PhDAnna L. Marsland, PhD, RN


3) Psychological stress and antibody response to influenza vaccination: when is the critical period for stress, and how does it get inside the body? 

Gregory E Miller 1Sheldon CohenSarah PressmanAnita BarkinBruce S RabinJohn J Treanor


4) Sleep and Immune function

5) Impact of COVID-19 Vaccination on WHOOP Data

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