News Editor: Renato M.E. Sabbatini, PhD
Excessive Daytime Sleepiness Related to Inflammatory Proteins
Cytokines, proteins associated with inflammation in our organism, may be related to excessive daytime sleepiness and fatigue, particularly in obese patients, a new study has shown. Researchers already knew that giving interleukin-6 (IL-6) for the treatment of cancer increased these symptoms, so physicians of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, USA, screened 31 patients with excessive daytime sleepiness for abnormally higher levels of IL-6 and TNF-alpha, another cytokine. Some of these patients had diagnosed sleep abnormalities, such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy. The subjects had either TNF-alpha, or IL-6, or both in elevated levels. Obese patients had altered levels of IL-6, while patients with nighttime sleep disturbances had more altered levels of TNF-alpha. Other researchers have reported that "sleeping sickness" - a parasitic infection spread by the bite of the African tse-tse fly, is also associated to high levels of both cytokines. These discoveries might open the way for new drugs that will counterbalance the higher levels of cytokines, thus decreasing sleepiness and fatigue.
Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism (1997;82:1313-1316) May 20, 1997