A lack of sleep is one of the more miserable chronic issues of life, and, while scientists have discovered a host of issues connected with poor sleep (such as obesity and shorter life span), research has revealed more pitfalls for which a sleep-deprived populace is at risk.
A new study on lack of sleep and its deleterious effects was recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences titled “Effects of insufficient sleep on circadian rhythmicity and expression amplitude of the human blood transcriptome.” And what does that mean?
Bad things both for your ability to fight off infection as well as your genes.
A brief explanation on the lack of sleep study in PNAS notes:
“Insufficient sleep and circadian rhythm disruption are associated with negative health outcomes, but the mechanisms involved remain largely unexplored … [one week] of insufficient sleep alters gene expression in human blood cells, reduces the amplitude of circadian rhythms in gene expression, and intensifies the effects of subsequent acute total sleep loss on gene expression. The affected genes are involved in chromatin remodeling, regulation of gene expression, and immune and stress responses.”
The summary adds:
“The data imply molecular mechanisms mediating the effects of sleep loss on health and highlight the interrelationships between sleep homeostasis, circadian rhythmicity, and metabolism.”
The BBC breaks it down, explaining how the lack of sleep affected genes even across a short period of observation. Researchers at the University of Surrey drew blood from 26 people after they slept sufficiently, comparing it with samples drawn from those who’d had six or fewer hours of rest.
The wind-up? Lack of sleep altered more than 700 genes, eventually “changing the chemistry of the body.”
Prof. Colin Smith of the University of Surrey told the broadcaster:
“There was quite a dramatic change in activity in many different kinds of genes … Clearly sleep is critical to rebuilding the body and maintaining a functional state, all kinds of damage appear to occur – hinting at what may lead to ill health … If we can’t actually replenish and replace new cells, then that’s going to lead to degenerative diseases.”
Like much related to lack of sleep, the constant issue of sleeplessness (whether due to lifestyle or stress) is often not only resolvable but also self-perpetuating. But if you’ve got a newborn or a second-shift career, take heart — doctors hope to find a pharmaceutical remedy to reverse the effects of sleeplessness and sleep deprivation.