The evidence continues to mount that a lack of sleep is catastrophic for our health. Research by Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has found that a single night’s loss of sleep can alter the genes that run our body’s biological clocks. Volunteers who were tested after being forced to stay awake all night showed increased epigenetic activity, which modifies how genes are expressed or turns them on or off.
Because changes in body clock genes have been shown to lead to various metabolism disorders and diseases, this result indicated that sleep loss should be avoided at all costs. “It could be that these changes are reset after one or several nights of good sleep,” said one of the researchers. “On the other hand…this could mean that at least some types of sleep loss or extended wakefulness, as in shift work, could lead to changes in the genome of your tissues that can affect your metabolism for longer periods.”