Over and beyond moodiness and fatigue, lack of a good night's sleep over a considerable course of time, can eventually lead to deadly health diseases such as heart diseases, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure, reveals a study.
People who endure sleepless nights (less than eight hours of sleep) have lesser amounts of "good cholesterol" as compared to their good-sleeper counterparts, affirmed researchers from the University of Helsinki. Supposedly, even a mere one week of sleeplessness can consequently contribute towards poorer health conditions, some even life-threatening in the long run.
"The study proved that just one week of insufficient sleep begins to change the body's immune response and metabolism," said Vilma Aho, member of the research team.
For the purpose of their study, researchers analyzed data from an experiment that they conducted, which involved studying sleep-deprived participants under controlled laboratory conditions, with the support of the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health. Further, cardiovascular risk data in more than 2,000 people in the age group of 30 to 45 were also analyzed by the researchers.
The researchers found that at a genetic level, the genes that particularly controlled the cholesterol metabolism, were lesser active in people who were sleep deprived than not. Further, poor sleepers had lower levels of high-density lipoproteins (good cholesterol) as compared to the better sleepers.
Hence, long-term sleep loss can possibly cause changes to the body's cholesterol and slow down its metabolic activity.
Cholesterol is nothing but a fatty substance that is naturally produced by our bodies and is highly beneficial for overall health. However, the bad cholesterol (usually obtained from food) can be harmful in more ways than one, if we end up consuming too much of it without metabolizing it appropriately. Lack of good cholesterol can adversely affect the metabolism.
In conclusion, the study suggests that there is an undeniable link between sleep deprivation and a weakened cholesterol metabolism, and that it may lead to a heightened risk of cardiovascular diseases.
"Studies like these are great at reinforcing what we know -- that if you consistently don't sleep well you are at an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes -- which is not fully appreciated by the general public," said Lisa Artis of The Sleep Council.
Artis believes that most people are only aware of the short-term effects that sleeplessness can have on us such as fatigue, irritability, moodiness, reduced productivity, lack of focus etc. She particularly emphasizes on the importance of being aware of the dire consequences that prolonged sleeplessness and its associated long-term effects can have on our health and body.
Artis further stressed on the need for more sleep awareness, education and support for overcoming sleep problems.
The findings of the new study have been published in the journal Scientific Reports.
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