According to a new study, disrupted sleep, insomnia and daily burnout are all linked to a higher
of coronavirus infection, more severe Covid-19 symptoms and longer recovery periods in high-risk
The observational study, published in the online journal BMJ Nutrition Prevention & Health, found
for every hour of extra sleep the healthcare worker got they lowered their odds of becoming infected
with Covid-19 by 12%.
“This study spotlights an often neglected area of wellbeing: the need for quality sleep and
time to prevent burnout and its consequences,” Minha Rajput-Ray, Medical Director of NNEdPro Global
Centre for Nutrition & Health, said in a statement.
The study found that most frontline health workers are averaging less than 7 hours of
a night but after accounting for potentially influential factors, every extra hour of sleep at night
was associated with 12% lower odds of Covid-19 infection.
This latest study surveyed 3,000 healthcare workers from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the U.K., and
the U.S., of which 568 got Covid-19.
The survey collected data on respondents lifestyle, health, and use of prescription medication and
dietary supplements plus information on the amount of sleep they got at night and in daytime naps over
the preceding year. It also collected data on any sleep problems; burnout from work; and workplace
exposure to Covid-19 infection.
They also noted that compared to respondents who had no sleep problems, those with three – including
difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or needing to use sleeping pills on 3 or more nights of
week– had an 88% greater chance of being infected with Covid-19.
Additionally, the study found that around 1 in 4 of those with Covid-19 reported difficulties sleeping
at night compared with around 1 in 5 of those without the infection.
And 1 in 20 of those with Covid-19 said they had three or more sleep problems compared with only 3% of
those without the infection.
The researchers also note that napping during the day didn’t have any protective effects against
Covid-19. In fact an extra hour acquired in daytime napping was associated with six per cent higher
of infection, although this association varied by country.
Burnout also increased the odds of infection.
Compared with those who didn't report any burnout, those for whom this was a daily occurrence were
than twice as likely to have Covid-19. Additionally, these respondents were also around three times as
likely to say that their infection was severe and that they needed a longer recovery period.
These findings held true, irrespective of the frequency of Covid-19 workplace exposure.
This latest study builds on the growing amount of research that shows the more sleep you get the
off you are when it comes to fighting Covid-19 infection, or any infection for that matter.
For example, previous research has shown that people with sleep disorders, people who sleep less than
five or six hours per night, and people who have poor sleep quality report higher rates of respiratory
illnesses, head colds, and related ills.
“We have a lot of evidence that if you have an adequate amount of sleep, you definitely can help to
prevent or fight any kind of infection,” Monika Haack, a psychoneuroimmunologist at Harvard Medical
School in Boston, told National Geographic in an interview.
Countless studies have linked poor sleep and burnout to a heightened risk of colds and flu as well as
long-term conditions, such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, musculoskeletal disease and death from
While it’s unclear exactly why sleep is so important for our immune systems ability to function,
have found that just one night of sleep deprivation is enough to keep T cells circulating in the
making them less able to learn about and respond to invading viruses.
Further, research has shown that when the body is denied sleep, T cells also become less able to
interact with virus-infected cells, reducing their power to fight the infection.
Additionally, some research suggests that lack of sleep and sleep disorders may adversely influence
immune system by increasing pro-inflammatory cytokines and histamines, which interfere with T cells
other immune cells.
There’s also evidence that lack of sleep can reduce the bodies ability to produce antibodies,
long-lasting proteins that the body makes in response to pathogens and vaccines.
Sleep deprivation can also reduce antibody responses to hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and H1N1 swine flu
vaccines. In some studies, one night was all it took to see the effect.
“Disruptions to the sleep-wake cycle can affect metabolic, immune and even psychological health,”
saidRajput-Ray. “And sleep deprivation can make calorie dense foods, higher in fat, sugar and salt,
appealing, particularly during times of stress and/or difficult shift patterns, all of which takes a
toll on overall health and wellbeing.”
However, it’s worth noting that sleep isn’t the only factor that can influence one’s risk of
According to an analysis published in 2020, exercise, social support, stress levels, smoking, alcohol
consumption, and other factors also explain why only a subset of people get sick when exposed to any
But either way until you get a vaccine it may be worth prioritizing your sleep.