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.

    ERIC J. OLSON, M.D.    ERIC J. OLSON, M.D. My research activities are focused in the areas of sleep disorders and interstitial lung disease. In sleep medicine, I participate in research activities relating to narcolepsy, different positive airway pressure modalities for sleep disordered breathing, cardiovascular disease mechanisms in sleep disordered breathing, and hospital-based sleep consultation. In interstitial lung disease, I participate in clinical trials and epidemiology studies. I have a special interest in lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) and I am the principal investigator for the Mayo site of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute-sponsored LAM Registry.

Editor:  Nadeem Noor

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.