Systemic immune function is impaired by sleep restriction. However, the impact of sleep restriction on local immune responses and to what extent any impairment can be mitigated by nutritional supplementation is unknown. We assessed the effect of 72-h sleep restriction (2-h nightly sleep) on local immune function and skin barrier restoration of an experimental wound, and determined the influence of habitual protein intake (1.5 g·kg-1·day-1) supplemented with arginine, glutamine, zinc sulfate, vitamin C, vitamin D3, and omega-3 fatty acids compared with lower protein intake (0.8 g·kg-1·day-1) without supplemental nutrients on these outcomes. Wounds were created in healthy adults by removing the top layer of less than or equal to eight forearm blisters induced via suction, after adequate sleep (AS) or 48 h of a 72-h sleep restriction period (SR; 2-h nightly sleep). A subset of participants undergoing sleep restriction received supplemental nutrients during and after sleep restriction (SR+). Wound fluid was serially sampled 48 h postblistering to assess local cytokine responses. The IL-8 response of wound fluid was higher for AS compared with SR [area-under-the-curve (log10), 5.1 ± 0.2 and 4.9 ± 0.2 pg/ml, respectively; P = 0.03]; and both IL-6 and IL-8 concentrations were higher for SR+ compared with SR ( P < 0.0001), suggestive of a potentially enhanced early wound healing response. Skin barrier recovery was shorter for AS (4.2 ± 0.9 days) compared with SR (5.0 ± 0.9 days) ( P = 0.02) but did not differ between SR and SR+ ( P = 0.18). Relatively modest sleep disruption delays wound healing. Supplemental nutrition may mitigate some decrements in local immune responses, without detectable effects on wound healing rate. NEW & NOTEWORTHY The data herein characterizes immune function in response to sleep restriction in healthy volunteers with and without nutrition supplementation. We used a unique skin wound model to show that sleep restriction delays skin barrier recovery, and nutrition supplementation attenuates decrements in local immune responses produced by sleep restriction. These findings support the beneficial effects of adequate sleep on immune function. Additional studies are necessary to characterize practical implications for populations where sleep restriction is unavoidable.
Keywords: Army; cytokines; first responders; immune function; military personnel; skin barrier recovery; sleep deprivation; stress; wound healing.