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Concept: Circadian rhythm


The sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythmicity both contribute to brain function, but whether this contribution differs between men and women and how it varies across cognitive domains and subjective dimensions has not been established. We examined the circadian and sleep-wake-dependent regulation of cognition in 16 men and 18 women in a forced desynchrony protocol and quantified the separate contributions of circadian phase, prior sleep, and elapsed time awake on cognition and sleep. The largest circadian effects were observed for reported sleepiness, mood, and reported effort; the effects on working memory and temporal processing were smaller. Although these effects were seen in both men and women, there were quantitative differences. The amplitude of the circadian modulation was larger in women in 11 of 39 performance measures so that their performance was more impaired in the early morning hours. Principal components analysis of the performance measures yielded three factors, accuracy, effort, and speed, which reflect core performance characteristics in a range of cognitive tasks and therefore are likely to be important for everyday performance. The largest circadian modulation was observed for effort, whereas accuracy exhibited the largest sex difference in circadian modulation. The sex differences in the circadian modulation of cognition could not be explained by sex differences in the circadian amplitude of plasma melatonin and electroencephalographic slow-wave activity. These data establish the impact of circadian rhythmicity and sex on waking cognition and have implications for understanding the regulation of brain function, cognition, and affect in shift-work, jetlag, and aging.

Concepts: Psychology, Male, Gender, Sleep, Cognition, Circadian rhythm, Jet lag, Melatonin


Traditional screen time (e.g. TV and videogaming) has been linked to sleep problems and poorer developmental outcomes in children. With the advent of portable touchscreen devices, this association may be extending down in age to disrupt the sleep of infants and toddlers, an age when sleep is essential for cognitive development. However, this association has not been demonstrated empirically. This study aims to examine whether frequency of touchscreen use is associated with sleep in infants and toddlers between 6 and 36 months of age. An online survey was administered to 715 parents reporting on child media use (daily exposure to TV and use of touchscreens), sleep patterns (night-time and daytime sleep duration, sleep onset - time to fall asleep, and frequencies of night awakenings). Structural equation models controlling for age, sex, TV exposure and maternal education indicated a significant association between touchscreen use and night-time sleep, daytime sleep and sleep onset. No significant effect was observed for the number of night awakenings. To our knowledge, this is the first report linking the use of touchscreen with sleep problems in infants and toddlers. Future longitudinal studies are needed to clarify the direction of effects and the mechanisms underlying these associations using detailed sleep tracking.

Concepts: Infant, Sleep, Sleep disorder, Circadian rhythm, Narcolepsy, Structural equation modeling, Sleep hygiene


Feelings of loneliness are common among young adults, and are hypothesized to impair the quality of sleep. In the present study, we tested associations between loneliness and sleep quality in a nationally representative sample of young adults. Further, based on the hypothesis that sleep problems in lonely individuals are driven by increased vigilance for threat, we tested whether past exposure to violence exacerbated this association.

Concepts: Present, Time, Future, Sleep, Sleep disorder, Circadian rhythm, Past, Sleep hygiene


Circadian organization of the mammalian transcriptome is achieved by rhythmic recruitment of key modifiers of chromatin structure and transcriptional and translational processes. These rhythmic processes, together with posttranslational modification, constitute circadian oscillators in the brain and peripheral tissues, which drive rhythms in physiology and behavior, including the sleep-wake cycle. In humans, sleep is normally timed to occur during the biological night, when body temperature is low and melatonin is synthesized. Desynchrony of sleep-wake timing and other circadian rhythms, such as occurs in shift work and jet lag, is associated with disruption of rhythmicity in physiology and endocrinology. However, to what extent mistimed sleep affects the molecular regulators of circadian rhythmicity remains to be established. Here, we show that mistimed sleep leads to a reduction of rhythmic transcripts in the human blood transcriptome from 6.4% at baseline to 1.0% during forced desynchrony of sleep and centrally driven circadian rhythms. Transcripts affected are key regulators of gene expression, including those associated with chromatin modification (methylases and acetylases), transcription (RNA polymerase II), translation (ribosomal proteins, initiation, and elongation factors), temperature-regulated transcription (cold inducible RNA-binding proteins), and core clock genes including CLOCK and ARNTL (BMAL1). We also estimated the separate contribution of sleep and circadian rhythmicity and found that the sleep-wake cycle coordinates the timing of transcription and translation in particular. The data show that mistimed sleep affects molecular processes at the core of circadian rhythm generation and imply that appropriate timing of sleep contributes significantly to the overall temporal organization of the human transcriptome.

Concepts: DNA, Protein, Gene, Cell nucleus, Gene expression, Transcription, RNA, Circadian rhythm


Given the pervasive use of screen-based media and the high prevalence of insufficient sleep among American youth and teenagers, this brief report summarizes the literature on electronic media and sleep and provides research recommendations. Recent systematic reviews of the literature reveal that the vast majority of studies find an adverse association between screen-based media consumption and sleep health, primarily via delayed bedtimes and reduced total sleep duration. The underlying mechanisms of these associations likely include the following: (1) time displacement (ie, time spent on screens replaces time spent sleeping and other activities); (2) psychological stimulation based on media content; and (3) the effects of light emitted from devices on circadian timing, sleep physiology, and alertness. Much of our current understanding of these processes, however, is limited by cross-sectional, observational, and self-reported data. Further experimental and observational research is needed to elucidate how the digital revolution is altering sleep and circadian rhythms across development (infancy to adulthood) as pathways to poor health, learning, and safety outcomes (eg, obesity, depression, risk-taking).

Concepts: Sleep, Sleep disorder, Adolescence, Circadian rhythm, Chronotype, Electronic media, Diurnality, Digital media


Insufficient sleep and circadian rhythm disruption are associated with negative health outcomes, including obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairment, but the mechanisms involved remain largely unexplored. Twenty-six participants were exposed to 1 wk of insufficient sleep (sleep-restriction condition 5.70 h, SEM = 0.03 sleep per 24 h) and 1 wk of sufficient sleep (control condition 8.50 h sleep, SEM = 0.11). Immediately following each condition, 10 whole-blood RNA samples were collected from each participant, while controlling for the effects of light, activity, and food, during a period of total sleep deprivation. Transcriptome analysis revealed that 711 genes were up- or down-regulated by insufficient sleep. Insufficient sleep also reduced the number of genes with a circadian expression profile from 1,855 to 1,481, reduced the circadian amplitude of these genes, and led to an increase in the number of genes that responded to subsequent total sleep deprivation from 122 to 856. Genes affected by insufficient sleep were associated with circadian rhythms (PER1, PER2, PER3, CRY2, CLOCK, NR1D1, NR1D2, RORA, DEC1, CSNK1E), sleep homeostasis (IL6, STAT3, KCNV2, CAMK2D), oxidative stress (PRDX2, PRDX5), and metabolism (SLC2A3, SLC2A5, GHRL, ABCA1). Biological processes affected included chromatin modification, gene-expression regulation, macromolecular metabolism, and inflammatory, immune and stress responses. Thus, insufficient sleep affects the human blood transcriptome, disrupts its circadian regulation, and intensifies the effects of acute total sleep deprivation. The identified biological processes may be involved with the negative effects of sleep loss on health, and highlight the interrelatedness of sleep homeostasis, circadian rhythmicity, and metabolism.

Concepts: Gene, Gene expression, Organism, Sleep, Sleep deprivation, Sleep disorder, Circadian rhythm, Chronotype


Sudden cardiac death exhibits diurnal variation in both acquired and hereditary forms of heart disease, but the molecular basis of this variation is unknown. A common mechanism that underlies susceptibility to ventricular arrhythmias is abnormalities in the duration (for example, short or long QT syndromes and heart failure) or pattern (for example, Brugada’s syndrome) of myocardial repolarization. Here we provide molecular evidence that links circadian rhythms to vulnerability in ventricular arrhythmias in mice. Specifically, we show that cardiac ion-channel expression and QT-interval duration (an index of myocardial repolarization) exhibit endogenous circadian rhythmicity under the control of a clock-dependent oscillator, krüppel-like factor 15 (Klf15). Klf15 transcriptionally controls rhythmic expression of Kv channel-interacting protein 2 (KChIP2), a critical subunit required for generating the transient outward potassium current. Deficiency or excess of Klf15 causes loss of rhythmic QT variation, abnormal repolarization and enhanced susceptibility to ventricular arrhythmias. These findings identify circadian transcription of ion channels as a mechanism for cardiac arrhythmogenesis.

Concepts: Cardiology, Heart, Sleep, Cardiac arrest, Cardiac electrophysiology, Long QT syndrome, Circadian rhythm, Sudden cardiac death


Misalignments between endogenous circadian rhythms and the built environment (i.e., social jet lag, SJL) result in learning and attention deficits. Currently, there is no way to assess the impact of SJL on learning outcomes of large populations as a response to schedule choices, let alone to assess which individuals are most negatively impacted by these choices. We analyzed two years of learning management system login events for 14,894 Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) students to investigate the capacity of such systems as tools for mapping the impact of SJL over large populations while maintaining the ability to generate insights about individuals. Personal daily activity profiles were validated against known biological timing effects, and revealed a majority of students experience more than 30 minutes of SJL on average, with greater amplitude correlating strongly with a significant decrease in academic performance, especially in people with later apparent chronotypes. Our findings demonstrate that online records can be used to map individual- and population-level SJL, allow deep mining for patterns across demographics, and could guide schedule choices in an effort to minimize SJL’s negative impact on learning outcomes.

Concepts: Learning, Knowledge, Circadian rhythm, Impact event, Learning management system, Illinois, Chicago, Northeastern Illinois University


There is strong diurnal variation in the symptoms and severity of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. In addition, disruption of the circadian clock is an aggravating factor associated with a range of human inflammatory diseases. To investigate mechanistic links between the biological clock and pathways underlying inflammatory arthritis, mice were administered collagen (or saline as a control) to induce arthritis. The treatment provoked an inflammatory response within the limbs, which showed robust daily variation in paw swelling and inflammatory cytokine expression. Inflammatory markers were significantly repressed during the dark phase. Further work demonstrated an active molecular clock within the inflamed limbs and highlighted the resident inflammatory cells, fibroblast-like synoviocytes (FLSs), as a potential source of the rhythmic inflammatory signal. Exposure of mice to constant light disrupted the clock in peripheral tissues, causing loss of the nighttime repression of local inflammation. Finally, the results show that the core clock proteins CRYPTOCHROMES 1 and 2 repressed inflammation within the FLSs, and provide novel evidence that a CRYPTOCHROME activator has anti-inflammatory properties in human cells. We conclude that under chronic inflammatory conditions, the clock actively represses inflammatory pathways during the dark phase. This interaction has exciting potential as a therapeutic avenue for treatment of inflammatory disease.-Hand, L. E., Hopwood, T. W., Dickson, S. H., Walker, A. L., Loudon, A. S. I., Ray D. W., Bechtold, D. A., Gibbs, J. E. The circadian clock regulates inflammatory arthritis.

Concepts: Inflammation, Interleukin 1, Asthma, Rheumatoid arthritis, Vasculitis, Anti-inflammatory, Circadian rhythm, C-reactive protein


Disturbances in the sleep-wake cycle and circadian rhythms are common symptoms of Alzheimer Disease (AD), and they have generally been considered as late consequences of the neurodegenerative processes. Recent evidence demonstrates that sleep-wake and circadian disruption often occur early in the course of the disease and may even precede the development of cognitive symptoms. Furthermore, the sleep-wake cycle appears to regulate levels of the pathogenic amyloid-beta peptide in the brain, and manipulating sleep can influence AD-related pathology in mouse models via multiple mechanisms. Finally, the circadian clock system, which controls the sleep-wake cycle and other diurnal oscillations in mice and humans, may also have a role in the neurodegenerative process. In this review, we examine the current literature related to the mechanisms by which sleep and circadian rhythms might impact AD pathogenesis, and we discuss potential therapeutic strategies targeting these systems for the prevention of AD.

Concepts: Alzheimer's disease, Sleep, Circadian rhythm, Circadian rhythms, Chronotype, Diurnality, Diurnal cycle