I'm having trouble sleeping lately. Does this increase my chances of getting sick?

Answer From Eric J. Olson, 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 a common cold virus. 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 a poor quality of sleep, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep.

With

Eric J. Olson, M.D.

Nov. 28, 2018 See more Expert Answers

See also

  1. Ambien: Is dependence a concern?
  2. Anorexia nervosa
  3. Antidepressant withdrawal: Is there such a thing?
  4. Antidepressants and alcohol: What's the concern?
  5. Antidepressants and weight gain: What causes it?
  6. Antidepressants: Can they stop working?
  7. Antidepressants for children and teens
  8. Antidepressants: Side effects
  9. Antidepressants: Selecting one that's right for you
  10. Antidepressants: Which cause the fewest sexual side effects?
  11. Atypical antidepressants
  12. Bedtime routines: Not just for babies
  13. Biofeedback
  14. Caffeine and depression: Is there a link?
  15. Can't sleep? Try daytime exercise
  16. Sleep apnea, central
  17. Chase away the winter blues
  18. CJD - Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  19. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  20. Coffee after dinner? Make it decaf
  21. Cognitive behavioral therapy
  22. CPAP machines: Tips for avoiding 10 common problems
  23. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  24. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  25. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  26. Depression: Diagnosis is key
  27. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  28. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  29. Depression: Provide support, encouragement
  30. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  31. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  32. Sleep and psoriatic arthritis
  33. Fatigue
  34. Fish oil and depression
  35. Foods and sleep
  36. Global Bridges
  37. Headaches and stress
  38. Sleep guidelines
  39. How opioid addiction occurs
  40. How to tell if a loved one is abusing opioids
  41. How to use opioids safely
  42. Huntington's disease
  43. Insomnia
  44. Insomnia: How do I stay asleep?
  45. Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills
  46. Jet lag disorder
  47. Depression and diet
  48. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  49. Late-day exercise
  50. Lexapro side effects: Is breast tenderness common?
  51. Light therapy
  52. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  53. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  54. Marijuana and depression
  55. Melatonin side effects
  56. Mild depression: Are antidepressants effective?
  57. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  58. Napping do's and don'ts
  59. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  60. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  61. Nicotine dependence
  62. Not tired? Don't go to bed
  63. Sleep apnea, obstructive
  64. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  65. Opioids and other drugs: What to watch for
  66. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  67. Pinworm infection
  68. Polysomnography (sleep study)
  69. Porphyria
  70. Post-concussion syndrome
  71. Postpartum depression
  72. Postpartum thyroiditis
  73. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  74. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  75. Prescription drug abuse
  76. Prescription sleeping pills: What's right for you?
  77. Pulmonary edema
  78. Rabies
  79. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  80. Choosing a light box
  81. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  82. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  83. Shift work and daytime sleep
  84. Skip booze for better sleep
  85. Antihistamines for insomnia
  86. OTC sleep aids
  87. Sleep and weight gain: What's the connection?
  88. Sleep apnea
  89. Sleep apnea and caffeine: Any connection?
  90. Sleep tips
  91. CPAP masks
  92. Smoking and rheumatoid arthritis: What's the risk?
  93. Stress symptoms
  94. Take headache relief into your own hands
  95. Tapering off opioids: When and how
  96. Teen depression
  97. Tension headache
  98. Relieving tension-type headaches
  99. Treating pain: When is an opioid the right choice?
  100. Treatment-resistant depression
  101. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  102. Valerian: A safe and effective herbal sleep aid?
  103. CPAP: How it works
  104. Obstructive sleep apnea: What happens?
  105. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  106. What are opioids and why are they dangerous?
  107. What is reflexology?