New research, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, is shedding light on the interaction of sleep and genes. Researchers at Surrey University took a small group of 26 subjects. Half slept for less than six hours a night; the other for 10. The sleep-deprived group was found to have altered functions in 711 genes, including some involved in metabolism, inflammation, and stress. The body’s normal circadian rhythms were also affected.
Getting fewer than six hours’ sleep per night deactivates genes which play a key role in the body’s constant process of self-repair and replenishment, according to a new study.
Genes produce proteins which are used to replace or repair damaged tissue, but after a week of sleep deprivation some of these ceased functioning.
The subjects’ bodies returned to normal after a period of regular sleep but prolonged deprivation could lead to major problems. The Center for Disease Control reports that 25% of Americans have occasional sleep problems and 10% have chronic sleep disorders.