Just a week of inadequate sleep can alter the activity of hundreds of genes, which may help scientists explain how wakeful nights can lead to ailments such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease

Sleep Loss Alters Genes While Raising Risk of Disease

Just a week of inadequate sleep can alter the activity of hundreds of genes, which may help scientists explain how wakeful nights can lead to ailments such as diabetes, obesity and heart disease.

Blood samples taken from patients revealed genetic changes that, with further research, may help answer why sleepless nights are so harmful to health, according to the study published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While not all of the altered genes have known functions, some are involved in metabolism and stress response.

More than one-third of Americans sleep fewer than seven hours a night, affecting their ability to concentrate, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. When people don’t get enough sleep, have poor-quality rest, or sleep at the wrong times of day, they are at a higher risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and depression, according to the National Institutes of Health.

“These pathways are ones investigators can pursue,” said Louis Ptacek, a neurologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who wasn’t affiliated with the research. “These genes are interesting, why is the rhythm dampened?”

Most adults need seven hours to nine hours of rest each night.

In the study, 26 participants spent a week sleeping fewer than 6 hours each night and had their blood drawn for samples. They then were kept busy for 40 hours and allowed to recover. The next week, they were allowed to sleep as many as 10 hours a night, and their blood was drawn again. The scientists used RNA extracted from patients’ blood to measure the effect on genes.

Gene Candidates

Changes were seen in more than 700 genes. In addition, about 374 of the 1,855 genes that ordinarily peaked and waned during the day also had their functions altered. Among the genes affected were those known to be involved with circadian rhythms, stress, how the body regulates itself while it sleeps, and metabolism.

It’s not clear how many of those changes were due specifically to lack of sleep, or to the stress caused by a lack of sleep, Ptacek said. A next step might be to compare the responses of people with chronic stress with those who are sleep deprived, he said.

While the participants were awake, their performance was assessed. When people in the group didn’t get enough sleep, they suffered more lapses in attention than when they had an adequate amount of rest, the study found.

The research was led by scientists at the University of Surrey in the U.K. It was funded by the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

To contact the reporter on this story: Elizabeth Lopatto in San Francisco at elopatto@bloomberg.net

About bambooinnovator
Kee Koon Boon (“KB”) is the co-founder and director of HERO Investment Management which provides specialized fund management and investment advisory services to the ARCHEA Asia HERO Innovators Fund (www.heroinnovator.com), the only Asian SMID-cap tech-focused fund in the industry. KB is an internationally featured investor rooted in the principles of value investing for over a decade as a fund manager and analyst in the Asian capital markets who started his career at a boutique hedge fund in Singapore where he was with the firm since 2002 and was also part of the core investment committee in significantly outperforming the index in the 10-year-plus-old flagship Asian fund. He was also the portfolio manager for Asia-Pacific equities at Korea’s largest mutual fund company. Prior to setting up the H.E.R.O. Innovators Fund, KB was the Chief Investment Officer & CEO of a Singapore Registered Fund Management Company (RFMC) where he is responsible for listed Asian equity investments. KB had taught accounting at the Singapore Management University (SMU) as a faculty member and also pioneered the 15-week course on Accounting Fraud in Asia as an official module at SMU. KB remains grateful and honored to be invited by Singapore’s financial regulator Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) to present to their top management team about implementing a world’s first fact-based forward-looking fraud detection framework to bring about benefits for the capital markets in Singapore and for the public and investment community. KB also served the community in sharing his insights in writing articles about value investing and corporate governance in the media that include Business Times, Straits Times, Jakarta Post, Manual of Ideas, Investopedia, TedXWallStreet. He had also presented in top investment, banking and finance conferences in America, Italy, Sydney, Cape Town, HK, China. He has trained CEOs, entrepreneurs, CFOs, management executives in business strategy & business model innovation in Singapore, HK and China.

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