When I was a child, my older relatives attempted to deter me from staying up past my bedtime by warning me that I would get sick if I didn’t get enough sleep.
Of course, I never listened. Considering this expert health advice was coming from the same people who insisted I would drown unless I waited a full hour to swim after eating and that if I swallowed my chewing gum it would stay in my stomach for seven years, my lack of adherence was not unfounded.
But it turns out, my mom’s claims were not without medical merit.
A 2009 study challenged conventional theories of sleep evolution when it compared the sleep durations of numerous mammals to the species’ susceptibility to infection. The study found that sleep does influence immunity, as the species that slept the longest suffered substantially reduced levels of parasitic infection.
Studies in humans have proven that lack of sleep negatively affects your immune system. Lack of sleep increases the production of inflammatory cytokines in your body. Cytokines, which are infection-fighting proteins, interact with cells of the immune system in order to regulate the body's response to disease and infection. When your body overproduces these proteins, you will feel the effects of the sickness your body normally would be fighting.