Sairam Parthasarathy, MD: Researching Sleep Disturbances’ Impact on Immunity

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Parthasarathy discussed next steps for research on the relationship between sleep disturbances and immunity in an interview with HCPLive at SLEEP 2024.

At SLEEP 2024, the 38th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Houston, Sairam Parthasarathy, MD, from the University of Arizona, presented on the relationship between sleep disturbances and immune function, as well as how sex differences modulated the relationship.1,2,3

Parthasarathy spoke with HCPLive at the meeting to discuss the relationship. He explained how sleep disturbances leads to the dysfunction of the white blood cells—the cells needed to fight the immune system. When it comes to sex differences, Parthasarathy said women are more likely to have a weaker immune response to COVID-19 compared to men.

In response to what recent research has discovered about the relationship between disturbances and immune responses, Parthasarathy said his team has collected some data, but it has not been peer-reviewed yet.

He explained how adults need an average of about 7 hours of sleep a night if not more. However, it can be unhealthy to sleep under or above the recommended hours of sleep—particularly, less than 6 hours and above 9 hours—as it can increase the risk for morbidity and mortality.

“What we're finding is that sleeping around seven hours in between six to eight hours seems to be the most optimal for the immune system,” Parthasarathy said.

Parthasarathy’s team found when someone contracts COVID-19, they may develop a robust response when sleeping 6 – 8 hours. However, patients sleeping out of this range tend to have a diminished antibody response.

Parthasarathy stressed the importance of understanding the relationship between sleep disturbances and immunity, especially with sex differences.

“It’s very important that we learn our lessons from once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, in order for us to prepare for the next pandemic,” he said. “We want to be sure that we understood what are post viral syndrome because this time it may be the Coronavirus, the next time it may be Dengue or it may be Ebola virus. We don't know what could be the next pandemic.”

However, even though we must be prepared for a future unprecedented virus, COVID-19 is still around.

“At the end of the day, prevention is better than cure,” Parthasarathy said. “From a sleep standpoint, people need to get 7 hours of sleep every night, people need to have restful sleep. If they're not having restful and uninterrupted sleep, they should be going and seeking medical attention, rather than allowing for that problem to persist.”

Parthasarathy's relevant disclosure includes Jazz Pharmaceuticals.


  1. Engert, L, Parthasarathy, S, Prather, A. The Impact of Sleep Disturbances on the Immune System: The Modulating Role of Sex and Implications for Long COVID. Session presented at SLEEP 2024. Houston, TX. June 3, 2024.
  2. Derman, C. Sairam Parthasarathy, MD: How Sleep Disturbances Impact Immune Function. HCPLive. June 4, 2024. Accessed June 5, 2024.
  3. Derman, C. Sairam Parthasarathy, MD: Sleep Issues Affect COVID-19, Vary by Sex. HCPLive. June 4, 2024. Accessed June 5, 2024.