Sleep is something that nearly all species need to survive. On a daily basis, humans need about 8 hours, dogs and cats recharge with around 12 hours, and the koala takes nearly the entire day — napping a whopping 22 hours. But unlike dogs, koalas, or most other animals, we humans don’t always get enough of our required Zzz’s.
Our lives are either too busy or filled with too many distractions that keep us up at night. Sometimes sleep is difficult because of an illness or changing work schedule. No matter the cause, consistent sleep deprivation is harmful to our health and numerous studies have linked it to impairments in cognitive performance as well as numerous physiological health problems like obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Previous research has shown that as little as one night of sleep loss could adjust epigenetic marks and increase weight gain. Other studies suggest that poor sleep leads to memory loss and histone modifications.
So exactly why is sleep, especially getting the right amount, so crucial to our health? The answer to this isn’t fully understood. However, it is known that sleep is essential for cellular repair and for the rejuvenation processes in the body, such as muscle repair and hormone regulation. Because many of these functions are regulated via the metabolic system, scientists are interested in researching this area to better understand how sleep deprivation affects the body on a molecular level.
One such study recently conducted at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida investigated the impact of sleep deprivation on systemic metabolism, including major redox metabolites as well as DNA methylation levels. Their results were published in the July issue of PLoS ONE.