Both sleep disturbance and social isolation increase the risk for morbidity and mortality. Systemic inflammation is suspected as a potential mechanism of these associations. However, the complex relationships between sleep disturbance, social isolation, and inflammation have not been examined in a population-based longitudinal study. This study examined the longitudinal association between sleep disturbance and systemic inflammation, and the moderating effects of social isolation on this association. The CARDIA study is a population-based longitudinal study conducted in four US cities. Sleep disturbance - i.e., insomnia complaints and short sleep duration - was assessed in 2962 African-American and White adults at baseline (2000-2001, ages 33-45years). Circulating C-reactive protein (CRP) was measured at baseline and follow-up (2005-2006). Interleukin-6 (IL-6) and subjective and objective social isolation (i.e., feelings of social isolation and social network size) were measured at follow-up. Sleep disturbance was a significant predictor of inflammation five years later after full adjustment for covariates (adjusted betas: 0.048, P=0.012 for CRP; 0.047, P=0.017 for IL-6). Further adjustment for baseline CRP revealed that sleep disturbance also impacted the longitudinal change in CRP levels over five years (adjusted beta: 0.044, P=0.013). Subjective social isolation was a significant moderator of this association between sleep disturbance and CRP (adjusted beta 0.131, P=0.002). Sleep disturbance was associated with heightened systemic inflammation in a general population over a five-year follow-up, and this association was significantly stronger in those who reported feelings of social isolation. Clinical interventions targeting sleep disturbances may be a potential avenue for reducing inflammation, particularly in individuals who feel socially isolated.
Keywords: C-reactive protein; Interleukin-6; Moderation; Population-based longitudinal study; Sleep disturbance; Social isolation; Systemic inflammation.
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