This data took nearly four years to collect. Needless to say, I am pretty proud of this publication. This is one of the first projects that I worked on (and completed) as a postdoc. It also presented an opportunity for undergraduates to become involved in biomedical research too. This study was an extension of a previous study ResearchBlogging.orgout of our Neuroscience Institute (Castanon-Cervantes et al. 2010; Journal of Immunology) which aimed to verify (if you will) that elevated immune responses are manifest from a change in the light-dark cycle and not explained by sleep loss. To address this, we first measured changes in daily sleep amounts across a 3 month protocol of jet lag in which the light-dark cycle was advanced by 6 h at the beginning of each week. As shown in this graph, the weekly decrease in sleep was highly variable, peaking on day 3 (even after wake, NREM and REM sleep processes re-entrained) and returning to baseline amounts by the end of the week. Despite this significant amount of sleep loss mid-week, there was no change in sleep pressure derived from measures of slow wave activity in the EEG.
Weekly Changes in Sleep with Experimental Jetlag

In a follow-up experiment, we tried to mimic the amount of sleep loss found under a protocol of jetlag (while also accounting for recovery from daily sleep loss). At the end of this experiment, we challenged the blood of animals that were controls, systematically sleep-deprived, or underwent 4 weeks of jet lag with LPS (an endotoxin that induces an immune response). We found that only the group subjected to the jet lag protocol showed an elevated immune response, recapitulating the findings of Castanon-Cervantes et al. 2010. We also found that both systematic sleep loss and experimental jetlag increased neuronal activity (relative to controls) in arousal-promoting and sleep homeostatic areas but to a different extent. In conclusion, it appears that the detrimental effects of jet lag on the body extend well beyond a loss (or change) in sleep. Frequent travelers beware.
Effects of Systematic Sleep Loss and JetLag on Brain Areas

Brager AJ, Ehlen JC, Castanon-Cervantes O, Natarajan D, Delisser P, Davidson AJ, & Paul KN (2013). Sleep loss and the inflammatory response in mice under chronic environmental circadian disruption. PloS one, 8 (5) PMID: 23696854