Links Between Stress, Sleep, and Inflammation: Are there Sex Differences?

Curr Psychiatry Rep. 2019 Feb 7;21(2):8. doi: 10.1007/s11920-019-0993-4.


Purpose of review: Inflammation has emerged as an important biological process in the development of many age-related diseases that occur at different frequencies in men and women. The aim of this review was to examine the current evidence linking stress and sleep with inflammation with a focus on sex differences.

Recent findings: Psychosocial stress that occurs either acutely or chronically is associated with elevated levels of systemic inflammation. While not as robust, insufficient sleep, particularly sleep disturbances, appears to be associated with higher levels of inflammatory activity as well. In several contexts, associations of stress and insufficient sleep with inflammation appear stronger in women than in men. However, this should be interpreted with caution as few studies test for sex differences. Stress and poor sleep often predict elevations in systemic inflammation. While there is some evidence that these associations are stronger in women, findings are largely mixed and more systematic investigations of sex differences in future studies are warranted.

Keywords: Immune system; Inflammation; Sex; Sleep; Stress.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Inflammation / physiopathology*
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / complications*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Stress, Psychological / complications*
  • Stress, Psychological / physiopathology*