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Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Atherosclerosis

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Sleep loss detrimental to blood vessels

Do you often worry that you might not be getting the right amount of sleep your body needs?

You should be worried. A recent study done by researchers from the University of Helsinki has found out that sleep loss additionally influences cholesterol metabolism. Lack of sleep has previously been determined to affect the activation of the immune process, inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism and the hormones that regulate the urge for food.

Insomnia and Atherosclerosis

The study examined the effect of cumulative sleep deprivation on cholesterol metabolism in terms of both gene expression and blood lipoprotein phases. With today’s ways, a small amount of blood can yield information with regards to the activation of genes as well as the amounts of different metabolites. This means it is feasible to search for new regulating substances and metabolic pathways that affect bodily functions.

According to one of the researchers, “In this case, we examined what changes sleep loss caused to the functions of the body and which of these changes could be partially responsible for the elevated risk for illness.”

The study centred on the fact that the genes which participate in cholesterol transport are less active in people who lack sleep than with those getting adequate sleep. This fact has been studied in sleep laboratories and in population-based studies.

Whilst analysing the various metabolites, the researchers discovered that in the population studies, persons affected by sleep loss had fewer high-density HDL lipoproteins, mostly referred to as the good cholesterol transport proteins, than individuals who slept sufficiently.

Along with other risks, these results could help explain the greater hazard of cardiovascular disease observed in sleep-deprived persons and help appreciate the mechanisms via which lack of sleep raises this risk.

The results stress out the impact of good sleep on health. The researchers emphasise that health education will have to focus on the importance of good sleep to prevent more serious illnesses, as an adjunct to healthy food and exercise. Even a small reduction in diseases, and even postponing the onset of sickness, would lead to huge financial savings for society.

One of the researchers note, ”It is particularly interesting that these factors contributing to the onset of atherosclerosis, that is to say, inflammatory reactions and changes to cholesterol metabolism, were found both in the experimental study and in the epidemiological data”.

He further added, “The experimental study proved that just one week of insufficient sleep begins to change the body’s immune response and metabolism. Our next goal is to determine how minor the sleep deficiency can be while still causing such changes”.

The study employed data from three sources: the experimental SR study (N=21), the DILGOM (Dietary, Lifestyle and Genetic determinants of Obesity and Metabolic syndrome (N=518) study and the Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study (YFS, N=2,221) study. The experimental SR study is a test conducted in cooperation with the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health simulating a week with restrained sleep. The DILGOM (Dietary, Lifestyle and Genetic determinants of Obesity and Metabolic syndrome study focused on risk factors for the metabolic syndrome. The Cardiovascular Risk in Young Finns Study is a study done in the Finnish population which followed the lifestyles and heart wellness of members from their childhood/formative years.

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