If you get less than six hours of sleep per night, your body is at a higher risk of a host of diseases, according to a new study. Scientists from Surrey University in England divided volunteers into two groups, one of which slept for less than six hours per night for an entire week, and one which slept for ten hours per night. they then kept each group awake for 40 hours and had them donate blood samples, which were studied to examine the effects of their sleep regimes.
Researchers found the week of sleep deprivation altered the function of 711 genes, including some involved in stress, inflammation, immunity and metabolism. Our bodies depend on those genes to produce a constant supply of proteins used to replace or repair damaged tissue, but after a week of inadequate sleep, some of them stopped working. Scientists say the genes were also affected by throwing off the body's 24-hour internal clock.
Although a week's normal sleep was enough to restore the affected genes to their normal pattern, researchers said that prolonged periods of sleeplessness could lead to serious health problems including obesity and heart disease.