Sleep is important for health; alterations in immune function following poor sleep may be linked to ill-health. In a recent study, a team of New York researchers looked at the relationship between sleep and the action of natural killer (NK) lymphocytes – cells of the immune system responsible for killing infected or tumor cells. The researchers monitored the sleep duration and time awake after sleep onset (WASO) of 39 healthy female volunteers. They found that participants with high WASO had significantly less NK cell mobilization in response to the stressor and that cells failed to return to pre-stressor levels 30 minutes later. These findings indicate that sleep problems may be linked to an impaired NK response to stressful stimuli, which may impact health and the body’s ability to fight off disease and infection.
Brain Behav Immun. 2007 Mar; 21(3):358-63. Epub 2006 Oct 6