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Getting Enough Sleep May Help Skin Wounds Heal Faster

Sleep deprivation slows skin wound healing; nutritional supplement boosts immune response

Bethesda, Md. (November 14, 2017)—Getting more sleep may help wound healing, and a nutrition supplement may also help, according to a new study. The paper, published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology, was chosen as an APSselect article for November.

Physical and emotional stress and poor nutrition have been found to weaken the immune system. Previous studies suggest that boosting nutrients such as vitamin C, omega-3 and other amino acids reduces inflammation and speeds post-surgical healing.

Researchers examined healing time (skin barrier restoration) and immune response in three groups of volunteers:

  • One group slept two hours a night for three consecutive nights and consumed the recommended dietary allowance for dietary protein, along with a non-nutritive drink twice a day (“sleep-restricted placebo”).
  • A second group slept two hours a night for three consecutive nights and consumed a higher amount of protein along with a nutritional supplement beverage twice a day (“sleep-restricted nutrition”).
  • A control group slept normally for the three nights (“control”).

The research team collected fluid from superficial wounds on the volunteers’ arms. Each day the researchers measured the amount of immune markers present in the fluid and the wounds’ skin-barrier restoration rate.

The wound fluid from the sleep-restricted nutrition group contained higher levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines—a substance that is released by immune cells—during wound recovery when compared to the other volunteers. This suggests that the nutritional drink may boost immune response at the wound site. Both sleep-restricted groups’ healing time was delayed by almost a full day when compared to the control group. However, there were no differences in skin-barrier restoration between the two sleep-restricted groups. “The failure of the nutrition intervention to affect skin-barrier recovery was surprising, given the higher concentrations of pro-inflammatory cytokines at the wound sites during the initial phase of wound healing in participants who received the nutrition intervention relative to those who received the placebo,” the research team wrote.

Although the results were not entirely as expected, the study may have practical implications in people—including military personnel and medical professionals— for whom inadequate sleep may be unavoidable. During times of sleep deprivation, maintaining a higher protein intake and consuming additional immune-enhancing vitamins and minerals may help boost the immune response. However, more research is needed, the researchers said.

The article, “Impact of sleep restriction on local immune response and skin barrier restoration with and without ‘multi-nutrient’ nutrition intervention,” is published ahead of print in the Journal of Applied Physiology. It is highlighted as one of this month’s “best of the best” as part of the American Physiological Society’s APSselect program. Read all of this month’s selected research articles.

NOTE TO JOURNALISTS: To schedule an interview with a member of the research team, please contact the APS Communications Office or 301-634-7209. Find more research highlights in the APS Press Room.

Physiology is the study of how molecules, cells, tissues and organs function in health and disease. Established in 1887, the American Physiological Society (APS) was the first U.S. society in the biomedical sciences field. The Society represents more than 10,000 members and publishes 15 peer-reviewed journals with a worldwide readership.



Study Explores How Immune System Functions During Sleep

Released November 15, 2016 - Research published in the American Journal of Physiology – Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology gives new insight into sleep’s importance to overall health: it may give the immune system a chance to regroup at a time when the relative risk of infection is low. The research team observed that healthy volunteers had greatly reduced numbers of certain T cell subsets within three hours of falling asleep. While it’s unclear where the T cells go during sleep, the researchers have some guesses to where and why they migrate.

Acute Sleep Deprivation Leads To Changes In Nighttime Urine Production

Released August 8, 2007 - Our body’s production of urine follows a circadian rhythm. During the day, we experience greater urinary frequency; at night, urine production declines, enabling us to get uninterrupted sleep. The regulation of urine excretion during nighttime hours is influenced by many factors, including hormones, blood flow, and sleep-related factors. The mechanism behind the day/night changes is not yet clear. Danish researchers who have examined the urinary patterns of sleep-deprived volunteers have found that a lack of sleep leads to increased urinary output and more salt in the urine. The findings were found to be more prevalent in males than females.

Sleep Deprivation Tied to Increased Nighttime Urination in Preteens

Released February 1, 2012 - A new study published in AJP-Renal finds that sleep deprivation causes healthy children, between the ages of eight and twelve, to urinate significantly more frequently, excrete more sodium in their urine, have altered regulation of the hormones important for excretion, and have higher blood pressure and heart rates.