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Does poor sleep lead to inflammation in women?

Since inflammation may increase the risk of disease, researchers examined whether there is a correlation between poor sleep and increased inflammation in middle-aged women.

Poor sleep is common in middle-aged women. Sleep disturbances can last for a long time and can reduce an individual’s quality of life and increase a person’s vulnerability to psychological disorders and other medical conditions.

Poor sleep may eventually lead to an increased risk of disease. This is because poor sleep may be associated with an increase in the inflammation response and an increase in inflammation increases the chance of disease. Relative to men, women are more susceptible to the consequences of inflammation due to poor sleep.

It is important to understand the underlying gender-specific mechanisms to the differences between men and women with regards to sleep. There are a limited number of studies that have looked at marker levels of the inflammation response in middle-aged women and in women transitioning into menopause.

A collaborative study between research teams across the United States and Switzerland recently published some of their findings on poor sleep and the inflammation response in middle-aged women in the journal Sleep.

The researchers recruited a total of 295 women from local communities through advertisements. The participants were both peri- and postmenopausal women between the ages of 40-60 years old who had completed physical tests and questionnaires.

The women also underwent three days of monitoring to observe hot flash measurements and sleep measurements by wearing an Activwatch 2. The researchers assessed the participants’ blood for inflammation markers, including C-reactive protein (CRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), and von Willebrand factor (VWF) protein. They also considered age, race, body mass index, cholesterol, and blood pressure among many others.

Poor sleep leads to poor health

The research team found that in models that were able to control for age, ethnicity, and education, poor sleep was correlated to higher inflammatory markers, specifically IL-6 and VWF. In addition, the amount of time spent awake after sleep was associated with an increase in VWF levels. These findings held true in a number of different multivariable mathematical models.

In conclusion, poor sleep is related to higher levels of VWF in the blood as well as higher levels of IL-6. These data suggest that poor sleep in middle-aged women who are peri- as well as postmenopausal is associated with increased levels of inflammation.

Considering previous studies that have implicated inflammation with a variety of diseases, this study shows that poor sleep could have consequences on the health of middle-aged women. Future studies should focus on improving women’s poor sleep to help recover from inflammation and therefore decrease their risk of disease.

Written by Ingrid Qemo, PhD

Reference: Nowakowski, S., Matthews, K.A., von Kanel, R., Hall, M.H., Thurston, R. (2018). Sleep characteristics and inflammatory biomarkers among midlife women. Sleep. zsy049. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsy049.



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