Health experts are aware that if you are a chronically sleep-deprived person, your health is in danger. If you don’t get adequate sleep every night, you are more prone to conditions like obesity and cardiovascular disease than people who get their fair share on a daily basis. And now it is clear that sleep deprivation interferes with the normal activity in hundreds of our genes. Those genes that are affected play major role in governing broad and important biological processes such as stress, metabolism, inflammation, immune system and circadian rhythms. This is in reference to a study conducted by a team of researchers at the University of Surrey in England.
The study was conducted on 26 adult participants whose sleep was closely monitored for two weeks. In the first week, the participants slept slightly fewer than 6 hours every night, short of the recommended 7-8 hours. The participants slept for eight and a half hours in the second week. At the end of every week, researchers took blood samples from the participants and analyzed them to find out any changes in genetic activity. When all other control factors including light exposure, physical activity and food were put into consideration, it emerged that participants who were deprived sleep exhibited dramatic changes in gene activity.
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- The activity of over 700 genes in sleep deprived participants had been altered.
- For every week of sleep deprivation, the total number of affected genes increased by 7 times.
- The activity of the genes fall and rise in accordance to the circadian clock.
- The frequency of the rise and fall of the genes diminished* in sleep deprived participants.
The gene expression in blood samples is an indication of what is taking place in other tissues including the liver and the brain, which are quite difficult to examine, according to the researchers.
In depth analysis showed that genes associated with inflammation, protein damage and immunity became activated, being a clear indication that tissue damage takes place after sleep deprivation. In contrast, the genes whose activity level fell were involved in the production of new proteins, tissues and cells. The study demonstrated that the balanced process of tissue renewal seemed to be disrupted by sleep deprivation.
In reference to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly a third of civilian adults report to get less than six hours of sleep every night. This is to suggest that millions of Americans are sustaining damages in their bodies.
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Other Scientists Depictions
This discovery that sleep deprivation could be changing the activity of our genes was a great revelation to scientists across the world. Some praised how the study was carefully crafted while others expressed confidence in the use of blood to assess molecular effects of sleep deprivation is a representation of a great field for further studies.
John Trinder, sleep researcher from the University of Melbourne in Australia, said the findings from the research is a major contribution to developing evidence that inadequate or poor sleep poses a major health risk.
Previous studies pertaining to biological effects of sleep deprivation were conducted in laboratory animals like mice. Scientists were mostly focusing on gene expression in tissues like the liver and the brain. This is not practical in living humans but the ability to use blood samples is a breakthrough for doctors dealing with sleep-deprived patients, according to British research team.
Sleep Deprivation Tolerance Linked to Genes
Differences in gene composition can make some people more likely to experience ill effects triggered by sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that people with a certain gene tend to feel sleepy or fatigued but have difficulties sleeping after having slept for only four hours, compared to those without the gene. According to Namni Goel, PhD, and a researcher from the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine in Philadelphia, this particular gene can depict how a person will respond to sleep deprivation. He adds that it may be particularly important to night shift workers and people who travel frequently across different time zones on business or family deals. This gene has a close relationship to narcolepsy, a sleeping disorder which causes daytime sleepiness. Majority of people with this gene have the sleep disorder.
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It is right to say that sleep deprivation is affecting your genes. Whereas many health experts recommend 7-8 hours of sleep every night, it is evident a majority of the world’s population are falling short of this crucial time in bed. Given that sleep deprivation is directly affecting the activity of hundreds of genes, which are in charge of crucial functions in the body, it seems like a disaster in the making. It is thus advisable to seek immediate medical attention if you find it difficult falling and staying a sleep once you go to bed. May be the one hour you skip in bed could amount to months in hospital bed at old age.