Science + Technology

Sleepless Night Triggers Immune System’s Inflammatory Response; Findings Reveal New Avenue for Fighting Autoimmune Disorders


Researchers at UCLA are the first to show how sleep lossaffects the immune system's inflammatory response and suggest sleepinterventions as a possible way to address problems associated withinflammation and autoimmune disorders.

Reporting in the Sept. 6 edition of the peer-reviewedjournal Archives of Internal Medicine, the research team finds that even modestsleep loss triggers cellular and genetic processes involved in the immunesystem's inflammatory response to disease and injury.

The findings increase understanding of sleep's role inaltering immune cell physiology and suggest sleep interventions as a possibleway 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 asingle night increases inflammation, which is a key factor in the onset ofcardiovascular disease and autoimmune disorders such as rheumatoid arthritis."said Dr. Michael Irwin, professor and director of the Cousins Centerfor Psychoneuroimmunology at the SemelInstitute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA.

About one-third of the people in the United States have trouble gettinga good night's sleep. The problem is more prevalent among people with chronicinflammatory disorders, including heart disease. Epidemiology studies link poorsleep 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 bodywith infection-fighting white blood cells that promote healing. However, avariety 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 of30 healthy adults drawn during the day across three baseline periods and afterpartial night sleep deprivation.

The results show white blood cells called monocytes producesignificantly greater amounts of two disease-fighting proteins after a night ofsleep loss, compared with amounts found after a night of uninterrupted sleep.

The research was supported by the General Clinical ResearchCenters Program of the National Institutes of Health and by the Cousins Center at UCLA.

Study co-authors included Minge Wang, CapellaO. Campomayor, Alicia Collado-Hidalgoand Steve Cole, all of the Cousins Center and SemelInstitute at UCLA.

The Semel Institute forNeuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA is an interdisciplinary research andeducation institute devoted to the understanding of complex human behavior,including the genetic, biological, behavioral and socioculturalunderpinnings of normal behavior, and the causes and consequences of neuropsychiatric disorders. For more information see



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