Why sleep can make you sick more quickly

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Sleep is known to be on the mend for people with chronic conditions or those who are too young to remember to take medications but this may not be the case for everyone. In fact it may play a role in how someone interprets adverse events-and by extension how they respond to therapy. Depriving a person of sleep may have two effects: It increases exposure to the negative emotions associated with not sleeping well and it increases an individuals tendency to self-medicate. In the journal Science Advances Wake Forest Baptist social scientists Stephen Cortes and Gernot Wagner Ph. D. present a study that explores why this happens and how the bodys natural sleep-wake cycle impacts this negative emotion.

For the study Cortes and Wagner carried out two experiments. The first involved recruiting 18 healthy adults with moderate-to-severe sleeping disorders to participate in the sleep study which involved asking participants to lay down in a darkened room for four hours. Then from that point until the end of the experiment they were given a battery of cognitive tests to perform.

Within this process not sleeping well-called waking less than your usual bedtime-was a predictor of how a person would rate their sleep quality. For example people who scored lower on sleep quality scores also tended to have more stress higher subjective compulsion to self-medicate self-monitoring of their mood and accuracy with a tool rather than determining the timing of sleep and higher reliance on pre-briefing cues for sleep. These changes were accompanied by changes to self-reported sleep throughout the night to control for these negative feelings.

The findings highlight the importance of including sleep as a critical variable to measure for improving quality of life and prevention of many adverse effects said Wagner.

The second study involved 61 healthy adults who either had mild to moderate sleep disorders or responded to drugs such as Ambien Ensure Naloxone or Divaglin. In this experiment the subjects all of whom were not scheduled for any special sessions at the end of the study were asked to rate their sleep quality on a scale from 0 to 5. Each rating was accompanied as timed by a brief physiological procedure known as eye movement capture eye tracking and eye movement testing (ECT).

Though reported sleep varied greatly across these participants the researchers found that on average participants reported being in the middle range-where sleep was reported as 0 to 20 percent.