Just how damaging is sleep deprivation?


Waking up after a restless night is never fun; it can be a struggle to drag yourself out of bed and even harder to stay awake during the day. But it could actually be even worse than that, following claims that losing out on shut eye for even one night has a dramatic effect on your body.

According to a Swedish team of scientists, missing out on a night's rest changes the genes which affect our biological clocks. In turn, this leads to alterations in appetite, body temperature and the way our brain works.

The research saw 15 healthy men stay at a lab for two nights on two different occasions. At random, the guys were allowed to sleep for one night of their stay and kept awake for the other. The men were also kept in bed, with things like their food intake and light strictly regulated.

Tissue samples from their stomach fat and thigh muscles were taken after their second stay, as these are areas which say a lot about metabolism and blood sugar control. They also had blood taken both before and after they consumed a sugar solution, in the hope insulin levels might show whether they were at increased risk of diabetes.

Once analysed, it was found that just the single night's disrupted sleep had affected their clock genes.

Epigenetics is the study of how environmental factors cause genes to be switched on and off and how cells read them. This is what was looked at by the scientists at Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and it was found that people who were sleep deprived had been affected at a genetic level.

"It could be that these changes are reset after one or several nights of good sleep," lead author Dr. Cedernaes explained in a statement.

"On the other hand, epigenetic marks are suggested to be able to function a sort of metabolic memory, and have been found to be altered in e.g. shift workers and people suffering from type 2 diabetes.

"This could mean that at least some types of sleep loss or extended wakefulness, as in shift work, could lead to changes in the genome of your tissues that can affect your metabolism for longer periods."

© Cover Media

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