Shifting Sleep Bad For Your Genes

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Which is worse for your DNA – being sleep-deprived or shifting your sleep?

Shifting your sleep, for instance due to shift work or jet lag, is worse for your genes.

“We know the body has certain rhythms it likes to maintain,” says Allegheny General Hospital sleep specialist Dr. Daniel Shade. “Body temperature follows that, different hormone release follows that.”

British researchers studied 22 healthy volunteers in a dimly lit sleep lab for three days.

The first day, they disrupted sleep at regular intervals to reset the subjects’ internal body clocks. They also drew blood samples on all three days to analyze gene activity.

Genes are bits of DNA that code for the body’s proteins. Proteins make up tissues, hormones and chemical signals that keep your body running in a coordinated way.

On day one, 6.4 percent of all genes analyzed were in sync with the subjects’ circadian rhythm. On days two and three — the days of shifted sleep — only one percent of genes were in sync.

“This protein synthesis, these chemicals are out of phase with where you are in terms of time,” says Dr. Shade.

Shift workers are at higher risk of high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes. While this isn’t a cause and effect study, these findings could be a hint.

“That’s part of the reason why you might feel bad when you’re jet lagged, and may be part of the reason shift workers have more health problems,” Dr. Shade continues. “We use the expression, I feel out of sync. You wonder if we were on to something when we invented that expression.”

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