Bad sleep ‘dramatically’ alters the body…
A run of poor sleep can have a potentially profound effect on the internal workings of the human body, say UK researchers. Writing in the journal PNAS, the researchers said the results helped explain how poor sleep damaged health in a variety of ways.
The activity of hundreds of genes were found to be altered when people’s sleep was cut to less than six hours a day for just a week. Heart Disease, diabetes, obesity and poor brain function have all been previously linked to substandard sleep and this research further illuminated the connection.
The full effect of those missing hours in bed and how they actually alter health is still being researched, as it is speculated that the effects could go much further than we think. What we do know is that the quality of sleep really matters. We need delta wave sleep (the deepest level of sleep) for all the essential ‘clean up’ and renewal of energy to occur.
Researchers at the University of Surrey analysed the blood of 26 people after they had had plenty of sleep, up to 10 hours each night for a week, and compared the results with samples of subjects who after a week had had less than six hours a night. The results were significant…
More than 700 genes were altered by this shift. Each gene contains the instructions for building a protein, so those that had less than six hours a night produced either more or less proteins – changing the chemistry of the body in ways that are counter-productive to health. It should be noted that too much protein is as disruptive to the body as too little.
Also the natural body clock was disturbed – some genes naturally wax and wane in activity through the day, but this effect was also dulled by sleep deprivation.
Prof Colin Smith, from the University of Surrey, told the BBC: “There was quite a dramatic change in activity in many different kinds of genes.” Areas such as the immune system and how the body responds to damage and stress were significantly affected.
Prof Smith added: “Clearly sleep is critical to rebuilding the body and maintaining a functional state. In the absence of sufficient sleep, all kinds of damage appear to occur – highlighting how sleep deprivation almost certainly leads to an array of health issues.”
If we can’t actually replenish and replace new cells, then that’s unquestionably going to lead to degenerative diseases.
He said many people may be even more sleep deprived in their daily lives than those in the study – suggesting these changes may be common and are the reason for a lot of ill health, especially in those cases were we have no other explanation.
Dr Reddy, a specialist in the body clock at the University of Cambridge, said the study was “very interesting and supports my own feeling that sleep is fundamentally important to regenerating all cells”.
He also said the key findings were the effects on inflammation and the immune system as it was possible to see a link between those effects and health problems such as diabetes. He continued, “We don’t fully understand what the switch is that causes all these changes, but theoretically if we can switch it on or off, we would probably be able to radically influence health outcomes.”