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Lack of sleep can alter gene activity

London, Feb 27, 2013, PTI: 22:34 IST
Just one week of inadequate sleep is enough to alter the activity of over 700 human genes, a new study has warned.

University of Surrey researchers monitored the activity of all genes of the human genome and found that inadequate sleep (less than 6 hours a night) affects the activity of hundreds of our genes.

These included genes which are linked to controlling inflammation, immunity, and the response to stress.

The research also showed that inadequate sleep reduced the number of genes that normally peak and wane in expression throughout the 24-hour day from 1,855 to 1,481.
Researchers found that the number of genes affected by sleep deprivation was seven times higher after a week of insufficient sleep.

Sleep deficiency leads to a host of significant health conditions including obesity, heart disease, and cognitive impairment, but until now scientists were unclear how gene expression patterns were altered by insufficient sleep.

These ‘gene expression’ patterns provide important clues on the potential molecular mechanisms linking sleep and overall health.

“This research has helped us to understand the effects of insufficient sleep on gene expression. Now that we have identified these effects we can use this information to further investigate the links between gene expression and overall health,” Derk-Jan Dijk, Director of the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey, said in a statement.

“The current interest in sleep and circadian rhythms as determinants of health and disease is a vital area of research,” said Colin Smith, Professor of functional genomics at the University of Surrey.

“By combining our expertise in sleep and ‘genomics’ (the study of the full complement of our genes), we are starting to make breakthroughs that will have an impact on our understanding and treatment of poor health arising from insufficient sleep,” Smith added.

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