Sleep is a fundamental physiologic process with unknown functions. It is divided into 2 distinct states: non-rapid-eye-movement sleep and rapid-eye-movement sleep. After acute infection with nonneurotropic agents, there are stereotypic changes in non-rapid-eye-movement sleep, particularly increased time spent in slow-wave sleep, and often a reduction of time spent in rapid-eye-movement sleep. It is now recognized that both infection-associated sleep and spontaneous sleep are regulated, in part, by immune mediators called cytokines. This review provides brief tutorials on the elements of the innate immune system that detect infection, how sleep is characterized in the laboratory, issues regarding the interpretation of sleep effects on immune function, the interaction of sleep with circadian rhythms and stress, and some of the microbial products, cytokines, and neuropeptides associated with sleep regulation. We also summarize our current understanding of the role of sleep in host defense and asthma exacerbation.