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Sleep, exercise and don't forget to laugh – How to prepare your body for the Covid-19 vaccine


Professor Luke O'Neill

Professor Luke O'Neill

Professor Luke O'Neill

“Your most important friend is your immune system. Make sure your immune system is up to scratch when you are vaccinated,” said Trinity College Professor Luke O’Neill.

As well as a good diet, Prof O’Neill said there are other factors that affect the immune system, and in turn affect the body’s response to the Covid-19 vaccine – including laughter, vitamin D and iron.

Speaking at the Irish Gerontological Society’s event on Getting Ireland’s Adults Covid Vaccination Ready, Prof O’Neill gave advice on how to get the immune system in shape before the Covid-19 vaccine.

Four vaccines have been approved for use in the EU, three of which are currently in use in Ireland – Moderna, BioNtech-Pfizer, and AstraZeneca.


“You can’t beat having a laugh,” said Prof O’Neill.

A study done in 2003 asked people to watch a funny movie and measured their laughter. It found that people who scored high on the humour response scale had increased immune function.

“Good humour and laughter bring out NK cells and that’s a de-stressor,” he said.


“If you are iron deficient, vaccines don’t work as well,” he said.

Studies have shown that taking iron supplements can boost vaccine efficiency.

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“Your immune system needs Iron – so make sure your iron levels are up,” said Prof O’Neill.

Vitamin D

People deficient in Vitamin D are less protected against the flu after being vaccinated, and it is recommended that those at risk of nutritional insufficiency should take vitamin D supplements a week before and after they receive the vaccine.


“A bad night’s sleep will decrease your immune system by a third the next day,” said Prof O’Neill.

The minimum requirement for sleep is on average eight hours, and achieving this can improve your immune system.

Professor Rose Anne Kenny, president of the Irish Gerontological Society, said sleep is important because it repairs, gets rid of toxins and helps us to replenish the mind and body.

Speaking at the event, she advised to take exercise earlier in the day, eat small meals at night, and cut out blue light an hour before bed to help sleep. Blue light includes laptops, desktops, smartphones and tablets.

Prof Kenny said a study has shown negative effects for those who spend more than four hours per day looking at blue light.

“Their sleep duration was reduced by almost one full hour, compared to people who hardly had any exposure to any blue light.”


Prof Kenny said adding exercise into a person’s lifestyle can improve the immune system by 30pc.

“People who exercise more are better at responding to vaccination and have fewer chest infections,” said Professor Kenny, who confirmed that physical exercise is a tool to help the immune system against Covid-19.

She recommends 150 minutes of brisk walking per week. “That’s 30 minutes five days a week.”


Stress can also affect the immune system, and in turn affect vaccination.

Stress is a really important thing to keep at bay and I know that’s very difficult.”Prof O’Neill says: “Stress is a really important negative.Try not to get too stressed, don’t be worrying. Meet a friend, do yoga, have a glass of wine, whatever it takes.

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