Considering the hectic life most people live these days, a good night’s sleep is essential to relax the mind and body. While the body demands at least seven to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep to maintain its overall health, it is not always possible to manage as many hours of sleep. A recent study, which appeared in the journal Experimental Physiology, says that sleeplessness can lead to changes in the blood levels of micro RNA (miRNA), noncoding molecules that help regulate protein expression.
It also mentions that sleeping for less than six hours per night could increase a person’s risk of atherosclerosis – a condition in which plaque builds up inside the arteries by as much as 27 per cent. The new research from the University of Colorado Boulder states how lack of sleep affects circulation by promoting the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries (atherogenesis), which can increase a person’s risk of experiencing a stroke or heart attack.
The study collected blood samples of 24 healthy participants aged between 44 to 62 years, who also provided information about their sleeping habits. Out of the selected participants, 12 reported sleeping seven to eight and a half hours per night, while the other 12 said that they only slept for five to six and a half hours per night.
The team found that the participants who slept for less than seven hours per night had blood levels of three key circulating miRNAs — miR-125A, miR-126, and miR-146a — that were 40–60 per cent lower than those of their peers who slept for seven or eight hours. These three miRNAs, the researchers note, suppress the expression of proinflammatory proteins.
“It may be possible to diagnose cardiovascular disease by performing blood tests. Laboratory technicians could assess a person’s levels of circulating miRNAs and look for the presence of the atherogenic signature that the study has identified”, says senior author of the study and Professor Christopher DeSouza.
At present, the senior researcher and his team are working to find out whether improving a person’s sleep habits can help re-establish healthy levels of important miRNAs in the blood.