Researchers at UCLA are the first to show how sleep loss affects the immune system's inflammatory response and suggest sleep interventions as a possible way to address problems associated with inflammation and autoimmune disorders.
Reporting in the Sept. 6 edition of the peer-reviewed journal Archives of Internal Medicine, the research team finds that even modest sleep loss triggers cellular and genetic processes involved in the immune system's inflammatory response to disease and injury.
The findings increase understanding of sleep's role in altering immune cell physiology and suggest sleep interventions as a possible way to address inflammation associated with risk of cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes and other autoimmune disorders.
"This study shows that even a modest loss of sleep for a single night increases inflammation, which is a key factor in the onset of cardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis." said Dr. Michael Irwin, professor and director of the Cousins Center for Psychoneuroimmunology at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.
About one-third of the people in the United States have trouble getting a good night's sleep. The problem is more prevalent among people with chronic inflammatory disorders, including heart disease. Epidemiology studies link poor sleep with risk of chronic disease in some people.
Inflammation, with its accompanying redness and swelling, occurs when the immune system floods a diseased or damaged portion of the body with infection-fighting white blood cells that promote healing. However, a variety of immune system disorders can cause the body to turn on itself, sometimes causing inflammation that can damage healthy organs and tissues.
The UCLA research team conducted blood and DNA analyses of 30 healthy adults drawn during the day across three baseline periods and after partial night sleep deprivation.
The results show white blood cells called monocytes produce significantly greater amounts of two disease-fighting proteins after a night of sleep loss, compared with amounts found after a night of uninterrupted sleep.
The research was supported by the General Clinical Research Centers Program of the National Institutes of Health and by the Cousins Center at UCLA.
Study co-authors included Minge Wang, Capella O. Campomayor, Alicia Collado-Hidalgo and Steve Cole, all of the Cousins Center and Semel Institute at UCLA.
The Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA is an interdisciplinary research and education institute devoted to the understanding of complex human behavior, including the genetic, biological, behavioral and sociocultural underpinnings of normal behavior, and the causes and consequences of neuropsychiatric disorders. For more information see http://www.npi.ucla.edu/.