Disturbed sleep and inflammatory cytokines in depressed and nondepressed pregnant women: An exploratory analysis of pregnancy outcomes

Michele L. Okun*, James F. Luther, Stephen R. Wisniewski, Katherine L. Wisner

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Disturbed sleep and depression are potential risk factors for pregnancy complications. Both conditions are known to dysregulate biological pathways responsible for maintaining homeostatic balance and pregnancy health. Depression during pregnancy is associated with poor sleep. Thus, we explored whether disturbed sleep was associated with inflammatory cytokines and risk for adverse pregnancy outcomes, as well as whether depression augmented the sleep-cytokine relationship, thereby additively contributing to risk for adverse outcomes. METHODS: Interview-assessed sleep and plasma cytokine concentrations were evaluated in a cohort of depressed and nondepressed pregnant women (n = 168) at 20 and 30 weeks' gestation. Outcomes evaluated included preterm birth, birth weight, and peripartum events. RESULTS: Among depressed women, short sleep duration (<7 hours) was associated with higher interleukin (IL)-8 across time (β = 0.506, p = .001), poor sleep efficiency (<85%) was associated with higher IL-6 (β = 0.205, p = .006), and daytime naps were associated with higher tumor necrosis factor α (β = 0.105, p = .024). Aspects of poor sleep were associated with having a lower weight baby (p values <.053). Among depressed women, interferon-γ increased risk for preterm birth (odds ratio = 1.175, p = .032). Trends for IL-6 and higher birth weight (β = 105.2, p = .085), interferon-γ and lower birth weight (β = -19.92, p < .069), and increased IL-8 and babies weighing less than 4000 grams (odds ratio = 0.72, p < .083) were observed. CONCLUSIONS: Although speculative, disturbed sleep may disrupt normal immune processes and contribute to adverse pregnancy outcomes. Exploratory analyses indicate that depression modifies these relationships.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)670-681
Number of pages12
JournalPsychosomatic medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Cytokine
  • Depression
  • Outcomes
  • Pregnancy
  • Sleep
  • Sleep quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Applied Psychology


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