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Daily interpersonal stress, sleep duration, and gene regulation during late adolescence



Psychological stress and poor sleep are associated with a wide range of negative health outcomes, which are thought to be mediated in part by alterations in immune processes. However, the molecular bases of links among stress, sleep, and immune processes are not completely understood, particularly during adolescence when sensitivity to stress and problems with sleep tend to increase. In the current study, we investigated whether various stressors (daily stress, major life events, perceived stress), sleep indices (duration, efficiency), and their interactions (e.g., moderating effects) are associated with expression of genes bearing response elements for transcription factors that regulate inflammatory and anti-viral processes.


Eighty-seven late adolescents completed daily checklists of their social experiences across a 15-day period and reported on their major life events during the previous year. They also completed actigraphy-based assessments of sleep quality and duration during 8 consecutive nights. An average of 5.5 months later, participants reported on their global perceptions of stress during the previous month and provided blood samples for genome-wide expression profiling of mRNA from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs).


Higher levels of daily interpersonal stress and shorter sleep duration were associated with upregulation of inflammation-related genes bearing response elements for proinflammatory transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB). Shorter sleep duration was also linked to downregulation of antiviral-related genes bearing response elements for interferon response factors (IRFs). Lastly, there was a significant interaction between daily stress and shorter sleep duration, such that the association between daily stress and inflammation-related gene expression was exacerbated in the context of shorter sleep duration. Results were independent of sex, ethnicity, parent education, body mass index, and smoking and alcohol history.


Everyday interpersonal stress and shortened sleep can be consequential for upstream NF-κB signaling pathways relevant to inflammatory processes during late adolescence. Notably, the occurrence of both may lead to even greater activation of NF-κB signaling.

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