Science and Medicine

Poor Sleep in Pregnancy Could Lead to Problems

“There is a dynamic relationship between sleep and immunity, and this study is the first to examine this relationship during pregnancy as opposed to postpartum.”

Poor sleep quality and quantity during pregnancy can disrupt normal immune processes and lead to lower birth weights and other complications, finds a University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine study published today in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine. Women with depression also are more likely than nondepressed women to suffer from disturbed sleep and to experience immune system disruption and adverse pregnancy outcomes.

“Our results highlight the importance of identifying sleep problems in early pregnancy, especially in women experiencing depression, since sleep is a modifiable behavior,” said Michele Okun, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Pitt’s School of Medicine and lead author of the report. “The earlier that sleep problems are identified, the sooner physicians can work with pregnant women to implement solutions.”

Adequate and high-quality sleep, both in pregnant and nonpregnant women as well as men, is essential for a healthy immune system. Pregnancy often is associated with changes in sleep patterns, including shortened sleep, insomnia symptoms and poor sleep quality. These disturbances can exacerbate the body’s inflammatory responses and cause an overproduction of cytokines, which act as signal molecules that communicate among immune cells.

Read more: Poor Sleep in Pregnancy Could Lead to Problems

 

Sleepy Teens Make Bad Food Choices

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends that adolescents get between nine and 10 hours of sleep per night.

Teenagers who get a good night sleep tend to eat healthier than their sleep-deprived peers, a new study suggests.

“Not only do sleepy teens on average eat more food that’s bad for them, they also eat less food that is good for them,” said Lauren Hale, associate professor of preventive medicine at Stony Brook University.

“While we already know that sleep duration is associated with a range of health consequences, this study speaks to some of the mechanisms, i.e., nutrition and decision making, through which health outcomes are affected.”

Presented at SLEEP 2013, the annual meeting of the Associate Professional Sleep Societies, the study examined the association between sleep duration and food choices in a national representative sample of 13,284 teenagers in the second wave of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. The data were collected in 1996 when the interview subjects had a mean age of 16 years.

Teens who reported sleeping fewer than seven hours per night—18 percent of respondents—were more likely to consume fast food two or more times per week and less likely to eat healthful food such as fruits and vegetables.

Read more: Sleepy Teens Make Bad Food Choices

   

Gene Associated With Longevity Also Regulates Circadian Clock

“The importance of this study is that it has both basic and potentially translational applications, taking into account the fact that pharmacological modulators of SIRT1 are currently under active study.”

Human sleeping and waking patterns are largely governed by an internal circadian clock that corresponds closely with the 24-hour cycle of light and darkness. This circadian clock also controls other body functions, such as metabolism and temperature regulation.

Studies in animals have found that when that rhythm gets thrown off, health problems including obesity and metabolic disorders such as diabetes can arise. Studies of people who work night shifts have also revealed an increased susceptibility to diabetes.

A new study from MIT shows that a gene called SIRT1, previously shown to protect against diseases of aging, plays a key role in controlling these circadian rhythms. The researchers found that circadian function decays with aging in normal mice, and that boosting their SIRT1 levels in the brain could prevent this decay. Conversely, loss of SIRT1 function impairs circadian control in young mice, mimicking what happens in normal aging.

Since the SIRT1 protein itself was found to decline with aging in the normal mice, the findings suggest that drugs that enhance SIRT1 activity in humans could have widespread health benefits, says Leonard Guarente, the Novartis Professor of Biology at MIT and senior author of a paper describing the findings in the June 20 issue of Cell.

Read more: Gene Associated With Longevity Also Regulates Circadian Clock

   

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