It is well known that lack of sleep is associated with many diseases, including heart disease, diabetes, infections, cancer, neurological disorders, anxiety, depression, and gastrointestinal disorders. Changes in sleep patterns affect the central nervous system, as well as the immune system, which in turn has an effect on different organ systems in the body. For example, studies have shown some gastrointestinal disorders, namely irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), may be associated with an increase in the amount of REM sleep, or the fourth part of the sleep cycle when we have the most vivid dreams. At this point, however, there have not been any negative consequences to such changes in sleep patterns. On the other hand, in Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, long-term activation of the immune response may result in impaired sleep, poor quality of sleep, or other sleep. And vice versa. Poor sleep may worsen disease.
Sleep and the immune system
During sleep, the immune system produces special proteins called cytokines. These play a role in the inflammatory response, either by increasing the inflammatory response or blocking it, depending on our bodies’ needs. Cytokines help promote sleep, fight infection, or block inflammation in chronic inflammatory diseases (example: Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis). Insufficient sleep can significantly alter the cytokines produc