The complex and intimate interactions between the sleep and immune systems have been the focus of study for several years. Immune factors, particularly the interleukins, regulate sleep and in turn are altered by sleep and sleep deprivation. The sleep-wake cycle likewise regulates normal functioning of the immune system. Although a large number of studies have focused on the relationship between the immune system and sleep, relatively few studies have examined the effects of sleep deprivation on immune parameters. Studies of sleep deprivation's effects are important for several reasons. First, in the 21st century, various societal pressures require humans to work longer and sleep less. Sleep deprivation is becoming an occupational hazard in many industries. Second, to garner a greater understanding of the regulatory effects of sleep on the immune system, one must understand the consequences of sleep deprivation on the immune system. Significant detrimental effects on immune functioning can be seen after a few days of total sleep deprivation or even several days of partial sleep deprivation. Interestingly, not all of the changes in immune physiology that occur as a result of sleep deprivation appear to be negative. Numerous medical disorders involving the immune system are associated with changes in the sleep-wake physiology--either being caused by sleep dysfunction or being exacerbated by sleep disruption. These disorders include infectious diseases, fibromyalgia, cancers, and major depressive disorder. In this article, we will describe the relationships between sleep physiology and the immune system, in states of health and disease. Interspersed will be proposals for future research that may illuminate the clinical relevance of the relationships between sleeping, sleep loss and immune function in humans.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology