Sleep Deprivation: Cytokine and Neuroendocrine Effects on Perception of Effort

Tom Cullen, Gavin Thomas, Alex J. Wadley

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    15 Citations (Scopus)
    46 Downloads (Pure)


    Introduction An increased perception of effort and subjective fatigue are thought to be central to decreased exercise performance observed after disrupted sleep. However, there is limited understanding of mechanisms that underpin these phenomena. We investigated the role of interleukin-6 (IL-6), the soluble IL-6 receptor, and neuroendocrine factors (cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and brain-derived neurotropic factor) in mediating these responses at rest and during exercise. Methods In a randomized order, 10 healthy active men completed three experimental trials following different sleep conditions: a single night of sleep deprivation, partial sleep deprivation equivalent to 4 h of sleep, and normal sleep. The experimental sessions consisted of physiological and perceptual measurements of exercise intensity throughout 45-min moderate intensity and 15-min maximal effort cycling. Cytokine and neuroendocrine factors were assessed at rest and in response to exercise. Results Sleep deprivation resulted in increased resting IL-6, lower blood glucose, increased perceived fatigue and perception of effort, lower free-living energy expenditure, and reduced maximal exercise performance. In contrast, sleep deprivation did not alter physiological, cytokine, or neuroendocrine responses to exercise. Variations in the resting concentration of IL-6 were associated with lowered blood glucose, an increased perception of effort, and impaired exercise performance. Resting concentrations of cortisol, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and BNDF showed subtle interactions with specific aspects of mood status and performance but were not affected by sleep deprivation. There were minimal effects of partial sleep deprivation. Conclusions These findings demonstrate that cytokine and neuroendocrine responses to exercise are not altered by sleep deprivation but that changes in the resting concentration of IL-6 may play a role in altered perception of effort in this context.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)909-918
    Number of pages10
    JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
    Issue number4
    Early online date15 Nov 2019
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2020

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-No Derivatives License 4.0 (CCBY-NC-ND), where it is permissible to download and share the work provided it is properly cited. The work cannot be changed in any way or used commercially without permission from the journal.


    • Sleep deprivation
    • bdnf
    • exercise
    • fatigue
    • il-6
    • mood

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
    • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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