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.


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. Biofeedback
  13. Central sleep apnea
  14. CJD - Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
  15. Clinical depression: What does that mean?
  16. Cognitive behavioral therapy
  17. CPAP machines: Tips for avoiding 10 common problems
  18. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
  19. Depression and anxiety: Can I have both?
  20. Depression, anxiety and exercise
  21. What is depression? A Mayo Clinic expert explains.
  22. Depression in women: Understanding the gender gap
  23. Depression (major depressive disorder)
  24. Depression: Supporting a family member or friend
  25. Drug addiction (substance use disorder)
  26. Fatigue
  27. Headaches and stress
  28. Sleep guidelines
  29. How opioid use disorder occurs
  30. How to tell if a loved one is abusing opioids
  31. Huntington's disease
  32. Insomnia
  33. Insomnia: How do I stay asleep?
  34. Insomnia treatment: Cognitive behavioral therapy instead of sleeping pills
  35. Jet lag disorder
  36. Kratom for opioid withdrawal
  37. Male depression: Understanding the issues
  38. MAOIs and diet: Is it necessary to restrict tyramine?
  39. Marijuana and depression
  40. Mayo Clinic Minute: Restless legs syndrome in kids
  41. Mayo Clinic Minute: What you should know about bats and rabies
  42. Melatonin side effects
  43. Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
  44. Napping do's and don'ts
  45. Natural remedies for depression: Are they effective?
  46. Nervous breakdown: What does it mean?
  47. Nicotine dependence
  48. Obstructive sleep apnea
  49. Obstructive Sleep Apnea
  50. Opioid stewardship: What is it?
  51. Pain and depression: Is there a link?
  52. Persistent post-concussive symptoms (Post-concussion syndrome)
  53. Pinworm infection
  54. Polysomnography (sleep study)
  55. Poppy seed tea: Beneficial or dangerous?
  56. Porphyria
  57. Postpartum depression
  58. Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
  59. Premenstrual syndrome (PMS)
  60. Prescription drug abuse
  61. Prescription sleeping pills: What's right for you?
  62. Pulmonary edema
  63. Rabies
  64. Restless legs syndrome
  65. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD)
  66. Seasonal affective disorder treatment: Choosing a light box
  67. Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
  68. Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs)
  69. Antihistamines for insomnia
  70. OTC sleep aids
  71. Sleep and psoriatic arthritis
  72. Sleep apnea
  73. Sleep tips
  74. Stress symptoms
  75. Tapering off opioids: When and how
  76. Teen depression
  77. Tension headache
  78. Relieving tension-type headaches
  79. Treatment-resistant depression
  80. Tricyclic antidepressants and tetracyclic antidepressants
  81. Valerian: A safe and effective herbal sleep aid?
  82. CPAP: How it works
  83. Obstructive sleep apnea: What happens?
  84. Vitamin B-12 and depression
  85. What are opioids and why are they dangerous?
  86. Which CPAP masks are best for you?
  87. Xylazine
  88. Mayo Clinic Minute: Do not share pain medication
  89. Mayo Clinic Minute: Avoid opioids for chronic pain
  90. Mayo Clinic Minute: Be careful not to pop pain pills