Sometimes it seems you’re asleep as soon as your head hits the pillow, but nearly everyone has had nights where they just couldn’t get to sleep right away or they woke up after two or three hours and couldn’t go back to sleep. And most have felt the effects the next day.

Your body needs sleep and not just so you don’t nod off at your desk in the afternoon. How well you sleep impacts your overall health.

Even a short run of sleepless nights can hurt your immune system. In a Mayo Clinic FAQ, Timothy Morgenthaler, MD, explains that “your body needs sleep to fight infectious diseases.” Not only does a lack of sleep make you more vulnerable to viruses, but, “Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick,” he says.

The effect is worse when it’s long-term, when it increases the “risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease,” Dr. Morgenthaler says.

The occasional sleepless night may not be cause for concern, but Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center website notes that around 70 million Americans have a sleep disorder. The good news is that most disorders are treatable with an accurate diagnosis. And Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic and other top medical organizations have programs, research and resources dedicated to furthering our understanding of sleep and helping to treat sleep disorders. Whether you’re a medical professional or you just need help getting a better night’s sleep, resources are readily available.

General resources

A Good Night’s Sleep

Clinical resources

For the latest research updates, clinicians can access Mayo Clinic sleep articles, and Cleveland Clinic’s Sleep Disorders Center research and clinical trials section. The National Sleep Foundation has patient education information and other resources for medical professionals.

Take some time to focus on the quality of your sleep. A good night’s sleep can also help speed your recovery from a serious injury or illness.