Posted on Aug 30, 2019, 6 p.m.
Experts are warning that a lack of sleep changes DNA behavior, which can lead to weight gain and high blood pressure, after a study finds only 17% of British adults get the recommended amount of sleep.
Sleep is incredibly important to health and well being, but this doesn’t stop millions of people from neglecting to get enough sleep every day. There is no shortage of research showing how lack of sleep can affect mental health, but most don’t realize it also increases the risks for heart disease, weight gain, and can change the way DNA behaves.
A recent study involving 2,000 adults found that only 17% of the participants were getting the recommended 8 hours of sleep each night, and 44% were only getting about 6 hours of sleep at maximum per night. Some people may expect to be a bit tired after a single sleepless night, but the impacts of an inadequate sleep schedule on the body can have surprising effects, consistent lack of sleep can actually be dangerous to health.
“Those people who sleep under six hours have a higher risk of coronary heart disease, their blood pressure is higher and their cholesterol is worse,” Paul Gringras comments in a release. “Our lack of sleep as a nation has been compared to ‘the canary in the coalmine’, in that poor sleep is linked to so many other serious health issues.”
Those who consistently don’t get enough sleep are at 60% increased risk for having a heart attack, stroke, or high blood pressure, according to Gringras. The body is believed to produce more inflammatory cytokines after a poor night’s sleep, and these proteins have a detrimental effect on the immune system. But poor sleep habits can go beyond these concerns to even change one’s DNA.
“Every cell in our body contains the same DNA, our genetic code. And people used to think that was that – your genes were who you are – and nothing could affect it,” Gringas explains. “But, our DNA, and how our body knows what to do with it, is in fact susceptible to changes from outside factors – what we eat, whether we smoke, how stressed we are, and how we sleep.”
While lack of sleep doesn’t actually change DNA it will impact the signals that control how genes operate on a daily basis. “Just one night’s bad sleep changes epigenetic signals to our DNA that cause weight gain and loss of muscle mass, and can affect the way that memories are laid down in the hippocampus – part of our brains,” Gringas clarifies.
Athletic performance and decision making are significantly linked to sleep; after a sleepless night people are more likely to make poor decisions, act impulsively, and have dulled accuracy as well as reaction time.
Exercising regularly on a daily basis can improve sleep patterns, according to Gringas 85% of the participants experienced improvements in their sleeping patterns after starting a regular exercise routine.
“Exercise during the day can be helpful for sleep quantity and quality - the survey showed that 85% of people found their sleep improved when they exercised during the day. You can train really hard, put all the hours into strategy and match-day evaluation that you want, but the simple fact is that if you are not getting enough sleep, it will have a direct negative effect on your performance, which is why athletes and their teams put so much emphasis on good quality sleep regimes.”
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This article is not intended to provide medical diagnosis, advice, treatment, or endorsement.