The researcher team, led by Filip Swirski, Ph.D., found that sleep disruptions cause a buildup of inflammatory cells in the blood vessels while increasing the amount of plaques within the arteries. If someone struggles to breathe in their sleep, they could be waking up several times during the night. These disruptions beckon hormonal changes that cause inflammatory cells to take up residence in the blood vessels. The disruptions also cause plaque buildup in the arteries, the precursor to atherosclerosis.
Why did the inflammatory cells rapidly multiply in the blood vessels? The hypothalamus region of the brain recognized the sleep pattern disruptions and secreted less of a hormone called hypocretin. Hormones are like chemical messengers that travel through the bloodstream. Hypocretin is a hormone that regulates sleep and white blood cell count. In the study, the mice that experienced sleep disruptions had lower levels of this hormone and an increased production of inflammatory white blood cells. In fact, the sleep-deprived mice produced twice as many stem cells in their marrow that ultimately generate white blood cells. This hormonal process works similarly in the human body.
Lead researcher Swirski stated, "We have discovered that sleep helps to regulate the production in the bone marrow of inflammatory cells and the health of blood vessels and that, conversely, sleep disruption breaks down control of inflammatory cell production, leading to more inflammation and more heart disease."
The researchers discovered a new pathway to atherosclerosis. In sleep deprived animals, hypocretin levels decrease, causing a complex chain reaction that ultimately damages the cardiovascular system. As hypocretin levels fall, there are significant changes in how neutrophil progenitors interact with white blood cells in bone marrow. This initiates the CSF-1 factor in the genes, causing rapid monocyte and neutrophil production that ultimately accelerates the onset of atherosclerosis.
Approximately 35 percent of adults report they get fewer than seven hours of sleep each night. This short duration sleep cycle is often disrupted by artificial lights, noises, smart phones, text messages, Netflix movies, and other digital disturbances. Furthermore, many people have damaged and inefficient sinus cavities and mucous membranes. Inflammation in the respiratory system can cause breathing problems during sleep, leading to a lack of oxygen, and poor sleep quality.
An anti-inflammatory diet, rich in plant-based antioxidants, can help shrink inflamed tissues and improve breathing quality during sleep cycles. People with sensitive sinus cavities and an overproduction of mucous may have trouble breathing through their nose during sleep. Black cumin seed is an effective remedy for inefficient sinus cavities. A 2010 Iranian study showed that black cumin seed reduces the presence of nasal mucosal congestion, nasal itching, runny nose, sneezing attacks, turbinate hypertrophy, and mucosal pallor. Mullein leaf extract or mullein infused tea can help shrink inflamed tissues, opening up the respiratory system for improved oxygen uptake during sleep. Turmeric root is a powerful anti-inflammatory that can reduce inflammation and limit sleep disturbances. Herbs such as passionflower and Valerian root can help the nervous system recuperate, leading to deeper sleep cycles and more restful sleep.