Wake Up Dermatology! It’s Time to Talk About Sleep

Tina Bhutani, MD, SAS, Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, Co-Director, Psoriasis and Skin Treatment Center Director, Dermatology Clinical Research Unit, UCSF

December 2022

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Dr. Bhutani talked about sleep: what sleep is, why sleep is important, the consequences of sleep deprivation, sleep’s impact on the skin, and future directions of sleep research.

The official definition of sleep, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, is a naturally recurring state of mind and body. Sleep is characterized by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, reduced interactions with our surroundings, and inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles. Dr. Bhutani says the key terms are “relatively” and “reduced,” as these descriptors differentiate sleep from loss of consciousness or coma.

During sleep, the brain is very active. Even during the deepest stages of sleep, a person can be awakened by somebody yelling or a baby crying. Sleep is dynamic, leading to quantitative and qualitative effects on memory formation and immune functioning.

Dr. Bhutani discussed the consequences of not getting enough sleep. Lack of sleep leads to susceptibility to infection, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, mood disorders, and skin conditions. Poor sleep quality leads to skin aging, transepidermal water loss, and slower recovery from UV-induced erythema. Sleep disturbances are commonly reported by patients with psoriasis and other skin diseases.

Dr. Bhutani and her colleagues who specialize in dermatology, psychiatry, sleep research, epidemiology, and biostatistics at the University of California at San Francisco formed a collaboration. They are conducting sleep studies on patients with moderate-to-severe psoriasis to evaluate biomarkers, sleep cycles, quality of life, and mental health.

Dr. Bhutani concluded that sleep should be a priority. Sleep shouldn’t happen after everything else in the day is done. Stop everything else you’re doing to ensure you get enough sleep.