A study reveals that a readily available, low-dose medication mitigates the inflammatory consequences of sleep restriction.


Summary: A recent study has revealed that low-dose aspirin can mitigate the inflammatory effects of sleep restriction. The findings, to be presented at SLEEP 2024, demonstrate that aspirin reduces specific inflammatory markers in sleep-restricted individuals. This study highlights the potential of pharmacologically addressing inflammation caused by insufficient sleep, suggesting that targeted therapeutics could complement behavioral sleep improvement therapies to manage inflammation and its associated risks.

Key Takeaways:

  • Low-dose aspirin reduced inflammatory markers such as interleukin-6 and C-reactive protein in sleep-restricted participants compared to a placebo.
  • Participants who took low-dose aspirin during sleep restriction showed decreased wake after sleep onset and increased sleep efficiency during recovery sleep.
  • The study suggests that targeted anti-inflammatory therapeutics could be developed to manage inflammation without the side effects of aspirin, complementing behavioral sleep therapies.

A new study found that low-dose acetylsalicylic acid, also known as aspirin, can reduce inflammatory responses to sleep restriction.

Results, to be presented at the SLEEP 2024 annual meeting, show that compared with placebo, preemptive administration of low-dose aspirin during sleep restriction reduced pro-inflammatory responses. Specifically, aspirin reduced interleukin-6 expression and COX-1/COX-2 double positive cells in lipopolysaccharide-stimulated monocytes, as well as C-reactive protein serum levels.

“The novelty of this study is that it investigated whether we can pharmacologically reduce the inflammatory consequences of sleep restriction,” says lead author Larissa Engert, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the department of neurology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston, in a release. “We used a non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drug because it has been shown to affect specific inflammatory pathways, which were previously shown to be dysregulated by experimental sleep restriction or sleep disturbances.”

Study Design and Methodology

The researchers collected data from 46 healthy adults in a randomized placebo-controlled crossover trial with three protocols—sleep restriction/aspirin, sleep restriction/placebo, and control sleep/placebo—each consisting of a 14-day at-home phase followed by an 11-day in-hospital stay. 

In the sleep restriction/aspirin condition, participants took low-dose aspirin during the at-home phase and in-hospital stay. Each in-hospital stay started with two nights of an eight-hour sleep opportunity. Then, under the sleep restriction conditions, participants were exposed to five nights of a four-hour sleep opportunity, followed by three nights of recovery sleep. The control sleep condition provided an eight-hour sleep opportunity throughout the in-hospital stay. 

Sleep and immunologic measures were assessed at baseline and various points throughout the study.

Implications and Future Therapeutics

The data also reveal that the aspirin-induced reduction of inflammatory pathway activity in sleep-restricted participants was paralleled by decreased wake after sleep onset and increased sleep efficiency during recovery sleep, Engert notes.

“These findings show that it is possible to blunt inflammatory pathways activated by sleep restriction through preemptive administration of low-dose aspirin. This may foster the development of new therapeutics that specifically target those pathways, and do not exhibit the undesirable side effects associated with aspirin, such as bleeding and stroke. Such therapeutics could complement behavioral sleep improvement therapies to better prevent or control inflammation and its consequences in those experiencing periods of sleep deficiency,” Engert says in a release.

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