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Open Access Highly Accessed Commentary

Sleeping to fuel the immune system: mammalian sleep and resistance to parasites

Mark R Opp

Author affiliations

Departments of Anesthesiology and Molecular & Integrative Physiology, University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, MI, USA

Citation and License

BMC Evolutionary Biology 2009, 9:8  doi:10.1186/1471-2148-9-8

Published: 9 January 2009


Sleep is an enigma. Why animals forgo eating and reproducing, while potentially increasing their risk of predation remains unknown. Although some may question whether all animals sleep, it is clear that all living organisms possess defenses against attack by pathogens. Immune responses of humans and animals are impaired by sleep loss, and responses to immune challenge include altered sleep. Thus, sleep is hypothesized to be a component of the acute phase response to infection and to function in host defense. Examining phylogenetic relationships among sleep parameters, components of the mammalian immune system and resistance to infection may provide insight into the evolution of sleep and lead to a greater appreciation for the role of sleep in host defense.