According to UK researchers, bad sleep can have devastating effects on your body and health. These effects were observed when people’s sleep cycles were cut to less than six hours a night. In a time span of only a week of poor sleeping, the activity of hundreds of genes was altered.
Heart disease, diabetes, obesity and poor brain function have all been linked to poor sleep, but the precise relationship between loss of sleep and health is unknown yet.
What researchers at the University of Surrey did was, they analyzed blood samples of 26 people that had 9-10 hours of sleep each night for a week. Those results were then compared to samples taken from the same people after a week of poor sleep (less than 6 hours of sleep every night).
They found out that the body’s chemistry was changed by changes that happened to more than 700 genes, all carrying information for building protein in the body. The biological clock of the body was also changed; genes that are usually active during the day were a lot less active as a result of sleep deprivation.
“There was quite a dramatic change in activity in many different kinds of genes. Clearly sleep is critical to rebuilding the body and maintaining a functional state, all kinds of damage appear to occur – hinting at what may lead to ill health. If we can’t actually replenish and replace new cells, then that’s going to lead to degenerative diseases.” – says Professor Colin Smith, from the University of Surrey.
Areas such as the immune system and how the body responds to damage and stress were affected. He also added that many people may be even more sleep deprived in their daily lives than those in the study – suggesting these changes may be common.
According to Dr Akhilesh Reddy from the University of Cambridge, the most important findings were the links between inflammation, the immune system and sleep deprivation. It’s now possible to see a link between the effects of poor sleep and health problems such as diabetes or heart conditions.
“But my feeling is that sleep is fundamentally important to regenerating all cells.” Says Dr Akhilesh Reddy.
It is also known that sleep has influence on hormonal production. Poor sleep lowers the production of Growth Hormone, Testosterone as well as other important hormones in our body.