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We have been keeping our eye on the latest sleep research, it really is a fascinating area of study and there have been some really exciting developments lately. For many years sleep was an enigma but slowly and surely we are finally beginning to understand more and more about this phenomenon.
One new study has shown that sleeping during the day time—something that people who work shifts or travel for work will do regularly—causes issues with your genes by disrupting them. Although most of us would think that our genes are fixed, that we are born with a set of genes and they stay static throughout our lives, the reality is that they are far more dynamic than that. The study found that these shifted sleep patterns were more disruptive to genes than lack of sleep, which is concerning for those who do this on a regular basis.
The new study was published a recent issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The British researchers got 22 healthy, young volunteers to sleep in a dimly lit lab for three days. On the first day, the researchers disrupted the participants' sleep at regular intervals with the aim of resetting their body clocks to its innate rhythm. During the second and third days, the participants ate and slept to a 28 hour schedule rather than a 24 hour one, with the longest period of sleep being from noon until around 6:30 p.m.
Over the course of the study the scientists took blood samples so they could monitor what was happening to the timing of gene activity. On the first day, as the body was resetting its circadian rhythms they found that almost 1400 genes (or roughly 6 per cent of the total that were looked at) were synchronised with the circadian rhythm. Once their sleep patterns had shifted the number of genes that were working in time with the body clock was reduced to only 228, which is less than one per cent of those analysed.
The researchers estimated that the sleep disruptions would ultimately impact about a third of a person's genes.
Dr. Mark Wu, assistant professor of neurology, medicine, genetic medicine and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins University believes that "This study suggests that mistimed sleep can alter circadian rhythms, so the cycling of many, many genes is impaired. What this could cause, they can't really say -- except it's probably not good."
Our genes are in charge of making proteins in our body and these proteins do everything from carry signals to building muscle. The timing of when these many different proteins are made is critical as they will often need to be produced in time with certain behaviours and actions. For example, when the body realises that it is eating a meal, the liver will then stop releasing stored carbohydrates into the blood and the pancreas begins making more insulin. If your genes are out of sync with your body then these process will not work as well and there could be a raft of different consequences.
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