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Longitudinal Changes in Sleep: Associations with Shifts in Circulating Cytokines and Emotional Distress in a Cancer Survivor Population.



Sleep disturbances are associated with numerous mood disorders. Similarly, anxiety and depression are associated with modulation of the psychoneuroimmune (PNI) axis. This study hypothesized that changes in both monitored and self-reported measures of sleep would relate to changes in circulating cytokine levels in an emotionally distressed population of cervical cancer survivors.


Biospecimens, patient-reported outcome (PRO) measures, and actigraphy were collected from cervical cancer survivors enrolled in a biobehavioral clinical trial. Longitudinal changes over a 4-month period were examined. Sleep time measured by actigraphy and PRO were analyzed for correlative changes with emotional distress and serum cytokines (n = 71).


Longitudinal change in the actigraph measure of sleep time was inversely associated with changes in depression and anxiety (test for linear trend, p = 0.02 and p = 0.05 respectively), as well as acute-phase response/pro-inflammatory cytokines (test for linear trend, p = 0.003, interleukin (IL)-2; 0.022, IL-1β; 0.0002, IL-6; and 0.049, tumor necrosis factor α). Conversely, changes in self-reported sleep problems were related to an increase in depression and anxiety (p = 0.001 and p = 0.01 respectively), the T helper 2 (Th2) cytokine IL-5 (p = 0.027), and the counter-regulatory cytokine IL-10 (0.016).


This study showed that an increase in sleep time or decrease in sleep problems corresponded with a reduction in self-reported emotional distress and attenuation of pro-inflammatory, Th2, and counter-regulatory cytokines. Our results support sleep measurement as a meaningful biobehavioral variable in cancer survivorship. This study also indicates that sleep investigators should be aware that choice of methodology might influence concordance with different classes of immune parameters.

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