Lack of sleep has a potentially harmful effect on gene expression, according to a study out on Aug. 6 that sheds light on the link between sleep deficits and a wide range of health conditions.
Lack of adequate shut-eye had already been linked to conditions from heart disease and cognitive impairment to obesity. But sleep researcher Derk-Jan Dijk and his fellow researchers have delved into the molecular mechanisms behind the phenomenon, looking at how missed sleep leads to health problems.
They found that a week of sleeping six hours or less a night affects the expression of some 711 genes, including those involved in inflammation, immunity, and stress responses.
Compared with test subjects who were allowed to sleep as long as 10 hours a night, those who lacked sleep had irregularities in their genes’ circadian rhythms.