Can lack of sleep mess with your genes?
New research has found that just a week of poor sleep can alter the activity of hundreds of genes. This could explain how sleepless nights can lead to health problems such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.
Elizabeth Lopatto at Bloomberg.com reports on a study funded by the US Air Force and conducted at the University of Surrey in England.
Volunteers spent a week sleeping fewer than 6 hours each night and had their blood drawn for samples. They then were kept busy for 40 hours and allowed to recover. The next week, they were allowed to sleep as many as 10 hours a night, and their blood was drawn again. The scientists used RNA extracted from patients’ blood to measure the effect on genes.
Changes were seen in more than 700 genes. Among the genes affected were those known to be involved with circadian rhythms, stress, how the body regulates itself while it sleeps, and metabolism.
In addition, about 374 of the 1,855 genes that ordinarily peaked and waned during the day also had their functions altered. It’s not clear how many of those changes were due specifically to lack of sleep, or to the stress caused by lack of sleep.
While the participants were awake, their performance was assessed. As you might expect, when people in the group didn’t get enough sleep, they suffered more lapses in attention than when they had an adequate amount of rest
Most adults need seven hours to nine hours of rest each night, but according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of Americans sleep fewer than seven hours a night. When people don’t get enough sleep, have poor-quality rest, or sleep at the wrong times of day, they are at a higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression.
I’m Bill Maier for Shine.FM.
Click here for the audio version of this article.