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Insomnia and Mechanistic Pathways to Atherosclerotic CVD in HIV

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posted on 29.07.2020, 16:26 by Brittanny Polanka
Study 1:
Background: Insomnia may be a risk factor for cardiovascular disease in HIV (HIV-CVD); however, mechanisms have yet to be elucidated. Methods: We examined cross-sectional associations of insomnia symptoms with biological mechanisms of HIV-CVD (immune activation, systemic inflammation, and coagulation) among 1,542 people living with HIV from the Veterans Aging Cohort Study (VACS) Biomarker Cohort. Past-month insomnia symptoms were assessed by the item, “Difficulty falling or staying asleep?,” with the following response options: “I do not have this symptom” or “I have this symptom and…” “it doesn’t bother me,” “it bothers me a little,” “it bothers me,” “it bothers me a lot.” Circulating levels of the monocyte activation marker soluble CD14 (sCD14), inflammatory marker interleukin-6 (IL-6), and coagulation marker D-dimer were determined from blood specimens. Demographic- and fully-adjusted (CVD risk factors, potential confounders, HIV-related factors) regression models were constructed, with log-transformed biomarker variables as the outcomes. We present the exponentiated regression coefficient (exp[b]) and its 95% confidence interval (CI). Results: For sCD14 and D-dimer, we observed no significant associations. For IL-6, veterans in the “bothers a lot” group had 15% higher IL-6 than veterans in the “I do not have this symptom” group in the demographic-adjusted model (exp[b]=1.15, 95%CI=1.02-1.29, p=.03). This association was nonsignificant in the fully-adjusted model (exp[b]=1.07, 95%CI=0.95-1.19, p=.25). Conclusion: We observed little evidence of relationships between insomnia symptoms and markers of biological mechanisms of HIV-CVD. Other mechanisms may be responsible for the insomnia-CVD relationship in HIV; however, future studies with comprehensive assessments of insomnia symptoms are warranted.

Study 2:

Background: While insomnia has been identified as a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease in HIV (HIV-CVD), research on the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms is scarce. Methods: We examined associations between 0-to-12-week changes in sleep disturbance and the concurrent 0-to-12-week changes and the subsequent 12-to-24-week changes in markers of systemic inflammation, coagulation, and endothelial dysfunction among people living with HIV (n = 33-38) enrolled in a depression clinical trial. Sleep disturbance was measured using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index. Inflammatory markers interleukin-6 (IL-6) and C-reactive protein (CRP) and coagulation marker D-dimer were determined from blood specimens; endothelial dysfunction marker brachial flow-mediated dilation (FMD) was determined by ultrasound. 0-to-12-week variables were calculated as 12-week visit minus baseline, and 12-to-24-week variables were calculated as 24-week minus 12-week. We constructed multivariate linear regression models for each outcome adjusting for age, sex, race/ethnicity, Framingham risk score, and baseline depressive symptoms. Results: We did not observe statistically significant associations between 0-to-12-week changes in sleep disturbance and 0-to-12-week or 12-to-24-week changes in IL-6, CRP, D-dimer, or FMD. However, we did observe potentially meaningful associations, likely undetected due to low power. For 0-to-12-weeks, every 1-standard deviation (SD) increase, or worsening, in the sleep disturbance change score was associated with a 0.41 pg/mL and 80 ng/mL decease in IL-6 and D-dimer, respectively. For 12-to-24-weeks, every 1-SD increase in sleep disturbance change score was associated with a 0.63 mg/L, 111 ng/mL, and 0.82% increase in CRP, D-dimer, and FMD, respectively. Conclusion: We observed potentially meaningful, though not statistically significant, associations between changes in sleep disturbance and changes in biological mechanisms underlying HIV-CVD over time. Some associations were in the expected direction, but others were not. Additional studies are needed that utilize larger samples and validated, comprehensive assessments of insomnia.


Degree Type

Doctor of Philosophy


Psychological Sciences

Campus location


Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jesse Stewart

Additional Committee Member 2

Adam Hirsh

Additional Committee Member 3

Tamika Zapolski

Additional Committee Member 4

Samir Gupta