Helsinki, Finland  A study has found that just one week of restless nights can damage the heart due to a rise in ‘bad’ cholesterol.
People who spent too few hours in bed also had less ‘good’ cholesterol circulating in their blood than those who slept sufficiently, Mail Online health news reported.
Genes, which regulate the transport of cholesterol around the body are less active in sleep deprived people than those getting a good night’s rest, researchers found.
The team, from the University of Helsinki, wanted to find out why lack of sleep was linked with more heart problems and strokes.
They analyzed people sleeping in a laboratory, and looked at data on sleep levels and disease in members of the general population.
They looked at the impact of sleep deprivation on how genes regulating the transport of cholesterol around the body – and on the actual levels of cholesterol in the blood.
The findings could explain why those who get less than the recommended seven to eight hours sleep a night are at higher risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, heart attacks and strokes.
Cholesterol is a kind of fat made by the liver and found in the blood, which is essential to the body as cells and organs need it.
But there are two types; ‘good’ high-density lipoproteins or HDL, and ‘bad’ or low-density lipoproteins or LDL.
‘Bad cholesterol’ can damage the walls of the arteries, causing them to become hardened, scarred and plaques form.
These plaques can restrict blood flow to the heart, causing a heart attack, or can break off and travel to the brain, causing a stroke.
Good cholesterol, on the other hand, acts as a magnet, hoovering up the bad cholesterol and moving it out of the arteries and into tissues such as the liver, or to make hormones.
Vilma Aho, a PhD student in sleep research at the University of Helsinki, said: ‘In this case, we examined what changes sleep loss caused to the functions of the body and which of these changes could be partially responsible for the elevated risk for illness.’
The factors contributing to the onset of atherosclerosis – the medical term for when the arteries become hardened and covered in plaques – were found in the people in the study, as well as in the data on the general population who lacked sleep, she said.
People should be educated on the importance of getting the right amount of rest to prevent common diseases, as well as eating healthily and exercising, she added.
Previous studies have found not enough sleep the immune system’s function, causing inflammation and a higher risk of illness.
“’The experimental study proved that just one week of insufficient sleep begins to change the body’s immune response and metabolism.
Our next goal is to determine how minor the sleep deficiency can be while still causing such changes,” Aho added.
The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.