Sleep Deprivation Affects Gene Expression

A sleepless woman next to her partner in bed

Disrupting your circadian rhythm can make you lose more than just a good night’s sleep.

Not altogether surprising, but still nice to see actual data. The original paper is available here.

The Guardian has a nice write-up about this too:

“Among the sleep-deprived, the activity of 444 genes was suppressed, while 267 genes were more active than in those who slept for longer. Changes to genes that control metabolism might trigger or exacerbate conditions such as diabetes or obesity, while disruption to other genes, such as those that govern the body’s inflammatory response, might have an impact on heart disease. Further genes that were affected have been linked to stress and ageing. Sleep loss also had a dramatic effect on genes that govern the body’s biological clock, suggesting that poor sleep might trigger a vicious cycle of worsening sleep disruption. The tests showed that people who slept for 8.5 hours a night had around 1,855 genes whose activity rose and fell over a 24-hour cycle. But in the sleep deprived, nearly 400 of these stopped cycling completely. The remainder rose and fell in keeping with the biological clock, but over a much smaller range”

The take home message? Don’t mess with your circadian rhythm if you can help it. You stand to lose a lot more than just a good night’s sleep.


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