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Theses Doctoral

Association of Sleep Duration and Quality with Activation of Two Neuroendocrine Systems: Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis and Sympathetic Nervous System. The Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis (MESA)

Castro-Diehl, Olga Cecilia

Many studies have shown that short sleep duration and/or poor sleep quality is associated with increasing rates of cardiovascular (CVD) mortality and morbidity. One hypothesized explanation for this association has been that sleep loss is a type of chronic stress that induces dysregulation of biological systems that ultimately increase the risk of CVD. One biological system that has been thought to link sleep loss and CVD is the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. A number of studies using small or convenience samples have addressed the effects of sleep deprivation on cortisol. Only a few studies have examined the association of habitual short sleep duration and/or poor sleep quality with changes in the diurnal cortisol in population based-samples; those studies vary in their methodology and in findings. Another biological system that has been thought to link sleep loss and CVD is the autonomic nervous system (ANS), through overactivation of the sympathetic nervous system (SNS) and/or probably a withdrawal of the parasympathetic nervous system. Experimental studies have shown an association between the sleep stages and markers of the sympathetic system. However, very few studies of habitual sleep duration/sleep quality and ANS markers have been conducted. Even fewer studies have examined the association of habitual sleep duration and/or sleep quality and ANS responses to a stress challenge in a population-based sample. The findings again have been inconsistent probably due to the use of different methodology and different samples. This dissertation used measures of salivary diurnal cortisol as well as cortisol responses to a stress challenge protocol to assess the relationship of habitual sleep duration and/or sleep quality with diurnal cortisol profile in natural conditions and in response to a stress challenge protocol in a laboratory setting. Diurnal cortisol was assessed from up to 16 samples of salivary cortisol for two days. Cortisol responses to a stress challenge were assessed from four salivary samples taken during the stress challenge that was performed in a different day than the diurnal cortisol collection. To examine the relationship of habitual sleep duration and/or sleep quality and markers of the ANS, this dissertation used continuous cardiovascular measures (heart rate and heart rate variability) and four salivary amylase samples obtained during the stress challenge. The stress challenge included mental stress and orthostatic stress. Sleep duration and sleep efficiency (an objective measure of sleep quality) were assessed from 7-day actigraphy and sleep diaries. Insomnia symptoms (a subjective measure of sleep quality) were also assessed using a questionnaire that included the Women’s Health Initiative Insomnia rating scale (WHIIRS). We used mixed models so as to account for the repeated measures of diurnal salivary cortisol levels as well as the responses (reactivity and recovery) to the stress challenge tests. Chapter 1 presents an introduction to this dissertation discussing the relationship between short sleep duration and/or poor sleep quality and CVD morbidity and mortality. Chapter 2 presents a systematic literature review of studies of the association between habitual sleep duration and/or sleep efficiency and markers of neuro-endocrine systems: HPA and ANS. These are plausible mechanisms that link short and/or poor sleep to CVD morbidity and mortality. Chapter 3 presents our analyses of the relationship between short sleep duration and/or poor sleep quality and features of the diurnal cortisol. We hypothesized that those participants whose slept < 6 hours per night or whose sleep efficiency was < 85% would have higher cortisol levels on awakening, flatter cortisol awakening responses (CAR), and higher evening cortisol levels than participants who slept longer or slept better. We found that short sleepers had higher evening cortisol than the longer sleepers and that this association persisted after the adjustment for several known confounders. In chapter 4, we examined how the same groups of participants responded in terms of hormones (cortisol and amylase) and cardiovascular indices (heart rate (HR) and HR variability (HRV)) to a stress challenge test. We hypothesized that those participants who slept for a shorter time or whose sleep was of poorer quality would have more exaggerated responses to and less recovery from a stress challenge test than participants who slept longer or slept better. We found that participants with insomnia had exaggerated high frequency-HRV (HF-HRV) orthostatic reactivity. In an extended analysis, we found that participants who slept less than 7 hours/night had exaggerated heart rate reactivity to a mental stress test compared to participants who slept 7 or more hours/night, but this association was attenuated after adjustment for naps. Paradoxically, we also found that participants who slept less than 7 hours had higher HF-HRV recovery from mental stress compared to longer sleepers (≥7 hours). Short sleep duration or low sleep efficiency was not associated with cortisol or amylase responses to the stress challenge protocol. These findings suggest that sustained high evening cortisol levels and cardiovascular responses to a stress challenge may be among the mechanisms linking short/poor sleep and CV disease.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Epidemiology
Thesis Advisors
Jacobson, Judith S.
Shea, Steven J. C.
Degree
Dr.P.H., Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
Published Here
March 30, 2016
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