Sleep disorders have become a global issue, and discovering their causes and consequences are the focus of many research endeavors. An estimated 70 million Americans suffer from some form of sleep disorder. Certain sleep disorders have been shown to cause neurocognitive impairment such as decreased cognitive ability, slower response times and performance detriments. Recent research suggests that individuals with sleep abnormalities are also at greater risk of serious adverse health, economic consequences, and most importantly increased all-cause mortality. Several research studies support the associations among sleep, immune function and inflammation. Here, we review the current research linking sleep, immune function, and gastrointestinal diseases and discuss the interdependent relationship between sleep and these gastrointestinal disorders. Different physiologic processes including immune system and inflammatory cytokines help regulate the sleep. The inflammatory cytokines such as tumor necrosis factor, interleukin-1 (IL-1), and IL-6 have been shown to be a significant contributor of sleep disturbances. On the other hand, sleep disturbances such as sleep deprivation have been shown to up regulate these inflammatory cytokines. Alterations in these cytokine levels have been demonstrated in certain gastrointestinal diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease, gastro-esophageal reflux, liver disorders and colorectal cancer. In turn, abnormal sleep brought on by these diseases is shown to contribute to the severity of these same gastrointestinal diseases. Knowledge of these relationships will allow gastroenterologists a great opportunity to enhance the care of their patients.
Keywords: Circadian rhythm; Colon cancer; Gastro-esophageal reflux disease; Immune function; Immunity; Inflammatory bowel disease; Irritable bowel syndrome; Liver disorders; Sleep.