Losing sleep may have far-reaching effects on one’s metabolism and even the activity of the body’s genes, according to a study at the University of Surrey in England.
The findings, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, stemmed from the sleep experiences of 26 volunteers. Some slept 8.5 hours each night for a week and some participants received only 5.7 hours of rest.
When the researchers tested the participants’ blood, they found that genes had become less active, including some that affected metabolism, in those who didn’t sleep as long. One result of the English study may be the development of a blood test that will tell medical providers how a patient’s health is affected by a lack of sleep.
“If people regularly restrict their sleep, it is possible that the disruption that we see could have an impact over time that ultimately determines their health outcomes as they age in later life,” Simon Archer, Ph.D., a sleep specialist at the University of Surrey, told MedlinePlus.com.
Archer, who studies the relationship of circadian genetics and sleep patterns, said additional research on a sleep patterns may determine long-term effects and what kinds of people are more vulnerable to them. The significance of the study is the effect that insufficient sleep can have on a person’s “body clock,” or circadian rhythm.
Diet affects sleep
The health benefits of a good night’s sleep are well-known. Sleep strengthens the immune system, keeps the brain sharp and lowers the risk of blood pressure and cardiovascular disease.
Some of the same foods that lead to health problems are those that prevent people from sleeping well. High-fat and spicy foods, caffeinated drinks and too much protein eaten shortly before bedtime may disrupt sleep cycles, states WebMD.com.
According to EatingWell.com, certain foods will help people sleep. Fish such as salmon, halibut and tuna have high amounts of vitamin B6, which boosts melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. Bananas, chickpeas and fortified cereals also have lots of B6.
Eating carbohydrates will help people fall asleep more easily, as will foods that have lots of calcium, such as dairy products and green leafy vegetables like kale.
Getting enough nightly rest can also be enhanced with dietary supplements such as Dr. Pinkus’ Sublingual Sleep from Dr. Newton’s Naturals. This fast-melting melatonin tablet promotes restful sleep with the calming effect of magnesium and vitamin B-1 and powerful antioxidants that help slow aging.