How Lack Of Sleep Affects Inflammation

Inadequate sleep may not necessarily raise inflammation to levels linked to chronic illness. But if lack of sleep makes you cranky enough to fight with your spouse, the stress involved can fuel the inflammatory process. Researchers at Ohio State wanted to know how sleep – or lack of it – relates to inflammation among married couples. To find out, they recruited 43 couples who agreed to attend two clinic visits. At each visit they had their blood drawn, reported how much sleep they had the night before, discussed a topic that sparked conflict, and then had more blood drawn. The initial blood tests showed that while sleeping less than seven hours didn’t bring on significant inflammation on its own, those taken after the discussion did. The researchers reported that when both partners slept less than seven hours, they were more likely to get angry or hostile during their discussion, and that for every hour of sleep lost, levels of two known inflammatory markers rose six percent when they argued. The more heated the disagreement, the greater the inflammatory response, up about 10 percent for each hour of lost sleep.

My take? These are interesting findings, as they suggest that a good night’s sleep might possibly help reduce the stress in marital conflict and thus the inflammation resulting from it. To get your full allotment of sleep, I suggest heeding the advice of Dr. Rubin Naiman, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. Naiman advises making it a priority to routinely get to bed early enough to allow the full amount of sleep you need. Try going to bed a bit earlier than usual each night until you’re where you want to be.

Stephanie J. Wilson et al, “Shortened sleep fuels inflammatory responses to marital conflict: Emotion regulation matters.” Psychoneuroendocrinology, May 2017; 79: 74 DOI: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2017.02.015

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