Purdue University Graduate School
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Insomnia and Mechanistic Pathways to Atherosclerotic CVD in HIV

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posted on 2020-07-29, 16:26 authored by Brittanny PolankaBrittanny 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

  • Indianapolis

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Jesse Stewart

Additional Committee Member 2

Adam Hirsh

Additional Committee Member 3

Tamika Zapolski

Additional Committee Member 4

Samir Gupta