Psychoneuroimmunology of Sleep Implications for Depression and Healthy Aging
Michael R. Irwin, MD
Cousins Professor, UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience, and Department of Psychiatry, UCLA David Geffen School of Medicine
Dr. Michael Irwin investigates the relationship between sleep and the immune system: the immunological biosignature of sleep. He focuses on the reciprocity between the brain and the immune system, to the point where the immune system has a critical role in regulating aspects such as sleep, depressed mood, fatigue, and changes in circadian rhythm cycles. Dr. Irwin identifies two aspects that are altered by sleep: the cellular immune system, which identifies and kills viruses, as well as the inflammatory response, which activates the immune system. As individuals age, both the cellular immune system and the inflammatory response are diminished and dampened. The conclusions that Dr. Irwin makes is that sleep is a dynamic behavioral process that can alter the immune system and drive inflammation, which has a reciprocal impact on one’s depression and health. Because sleep disturbances predict depression reoccurrence due to the possible role of inflammation, for older adults, targeting one’s sleep and inflammation may reduce depression risk and improve health functioning.