An acute lack of sleep damages the genes

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How lack of sleep affects our genes and promotes diseases

Night workers in particular are permanently exposed to a lack of sleep. The research team led by Derk-Jan Dijk from the University of Surrey in Guildford found out in a study how insufficient sleep affects cells and hundreds of genes. The scientists are providing new explanations for the negative effects of lack of sleep on human health. For the first time, it was possible to investigate how many genes are affected in humans if they suffer from chronic sleep deprivation.

In the study report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS 2013; doi: 10.1073 / pnas.1217154110), the researchers report that “a week's lack of sleep disturbs the body's internal clock and negatively affects cells and activated by hundreds of genes work. ”A large number of epidemiological studies in the past have shown that lack of sleep can lead to various health disorders.

Less than six hours of sleep creates a lack of sleep
Medical doctors assume a lack of sleep if an adult permanently sleeps less than six hours per 24 hours. It was found that lack of sleep not only limits mindfulness or disrupts cognitive performance, but also promotes obesity and type II diabetes. One study even indicates a higher mortality rate than those who slept late. Physiological and endocrine disorders are also associated with a lack of sleep. However, subsequent research is largely lacking in order to provide clear evidence.

In the present work, the team led by Derk-Jan Dijk investigated the effects of lack of sleep with the help of test subjects. During a one-week observation period, the sleep time of 26 healthy men and women was reduced to 5.7 hours. During this time, the researchers examined the activities of the genes in the blood cells and the general health of the participants.

Massive effects on cells and genes
First, the participants completed a control period. During this time, they had to spend at least ten hours in bed. Most people slept through eight full hours on average. In phase 2, the subjects were brought out of sleep 2 to 3 hours earlier. At the end of the test week, it became apparent that the melatonin peak had shifted. This showed the researchers that there was now a disturbance in the internal clock. The restlessness of the participants was reflected in further psychometric examinations. In addition, their vigilance was significantly reduced.

The effects on all genes activated in the cells were more far-reaching than expected. "We observed significant changes in 711 genes," the study authors report. "The number of genes that fluctuated during the day was reduced from 1,855 to 1,481". Among the altered actions of the genes were those that "regulate the circadian rhythm and influence sleep homeostasis."

Lack of sleep promotes vascular diseases and metabolic disorders When there is a lack of sleep, oxidative stress and certain metabolic pathways are also affected. This triggers inflammatory and immune reactions. This also explains the increased risk of chronic metabolic diseases such as type II diabetes or vascular diseases. However, it remains unclear with these research results how sleep deprivation interferes with the history of the emergence of the diseases.

The scientific results, although very profound, cannot provide any significance for future therapeutic purposes. "Rather, the study shows that sleep has a high health significance that should not be underestimated." Therefore, the advice is usually to sleep enough to allow the body a sufficient period of rest. (sb)

Also read:
Lack of sleep promotes stroke and heart attack
Sleep research: 80 causes of sleep deprivation
Fat due to lack of sleep
Stress hormones produce excess weight
Lots of fat with diabetes and psycho-stress
When sleep is too short, cravings for fattening foods
Risk: Lack of sleep promotes diabetes

Image: Benjamin Thorn,

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Video: What happens when your DNA is damaged? - Monica Menesini


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