The extent to which sleep deprivation interferes with immunity in the respiratory tract to influenza virus has been assessed in mice. Mice were orally immunized with influenza virus on two occasions separated by a one week interval and challenged intranasally one week later. Some animals were deprived of sleep for a 7 h period immediately following challenge. Three days after challenge, virus clearance and virus specific antibody were determined in lungs of sleep deprived and normally sleeping mice and the results compared with unimmunized mice subjected to the same protocol. Whereas immunized, normal sleep mice achieved total virus clearance, sleep deprivation in immunized mice completely abrogated this effect such that sleep deprived animals behaved as though they had never been immunized. There was no difference in viral clearance in unimmunized mice whether sleep deprived or not, indicating that sleep deprivation did not itself have a direct effect on viral replication. The data reported here support the concept that sleep is a behavioral state which is essential for optimal immune function in the presence of a respiratory tract pathogen.