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Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D.close window
Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D.
Risk factors (1)
- Sleep and weight gain: What's the connection?
- Late-day exercise: Can it cause insomnia?
- Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
Treatments and drugs (3)
- Sleeping pills: How can I avoid becoming dependent?
- Ambien: Is dependence a concern?
- Sleep aids: Could antihistamines help me sleep?
Lifestyle and home remedies (7)
- Insomnia: How do I stay asleep?
- Foods that help you sleep
- Sleep and technology: What's the connection?
- see all in Lifestyle and home remedies
Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
I'm having trouble sleeping lately. Does this increase my chances of getting sick?
from Timothy Morgenthaler, M.D.
Yes, lack of sleep can affect your immune system. Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as the common cold. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick.
During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.
So, your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases. Long-term lack of sleep also increases your risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease.
How much sleep do you need to bolster your immune system? The optimal amount of sleep for most adults is seven to eight hours of good sleep each night. Teenagers need nine to 10 hours of sleep. School-aged children may need 10 or more hours of sleep.
But more sleep isn't always better. For adults, sleeping more than nine to 10 hours a night may result in poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.Next question
Sleeping pills: How can I avoid becoming dependent?
- Bollinger T, et al. Sleep, immunity, and circadian clocks: A mechanistic model. Gerontology. 2010;56:574.
- Your guide to healthy sleep. National, Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Revised Aug. 2011. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/sleep/index.htm. Accessed May 26, 2012.
- Dettoni JL, et al. Cardiovascular effects of partial sleep deprivation in health volunteers. Journal of Applied Physiology. In press. Accessed May 26, 2012.
- Vijayakumar M, et al. Sleep and obesity: A focus on animal models. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2012;26:1015.
- Teodorescu MC, et al. Tired and sick. Sleep. 2012;35:97.
- Morgenthaler TI (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 8, 2012.
- Park JG (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. June 12, 2012.