Humans need sleep, as simple as that. We know that this need of ours is also beneficial to us, but how much do we know of its salubrious effects? A new study published in Scientific Reports suggests a new reason to sleep adequately: lack of it might decrease good cholesterol from the body.
If sleep, the sister of death, is necessary for life, know that lack thereof will come with unpleasant consequences. Sleep deprivation has been documented in a number of scientific papers, and a new one explains how it can impact negatively on the heart by distorting the levels of cholesterol.
The mechanism through which this happens involves changes in genes that regulate cholesterol concentrations. These results were obtained from participants who were to sleep adequately, and from others who had restricted sleep with only 4 hours per night. Their blood samples were analysed for gene expression and cholesterol levels. Those who had insufficient sleep were later shown to have decreased expression for genes responsible for the regulation of the levels of cholesterol.
So, basically, sleep deprivation affects a person at the level of the genes, and disrupts cholesterol levels such that the amount of good cholesterol, known as high-density lipoproteins (HDL), decreases. Note that HDL helps to get rid of bad cholesterol, the low-density lipoproteins (LDL), from arteries, thereby protecting the health of the heart. Otherwise, the harm imposed by LDL involves the accumulation of plaques in arteries, increasing the risk of having heart attacks and strokes.
The authors write that their results suggest how short-lasting sleep deprivation might affect health in a major way: only one week of lack of sleep can change the metabolism of the body. They also add that this study may help explain why those who are sleep-deprived have a higher risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.