July 2, 2012
Immune System Can Be Affected By Severe Sleep Loss
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
Researchers from the UK and the Netherlands have discovered that sleep deprivation has the same kind of negative impact on the immune system as physical stress.
The study, announced by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), compared the white blood cell counts of 15 healthy young men under both normal and severely sleep-deprived conditions.
The blood cells were categorized and measured from each of the subjects following a schedule that saw them sleep exactly eight hours per day each day for a week. They were exposed to at least 15 minutes of outdoor light within 80 minutes of waking up and prohibited from using caffeine, alcohol or medication during the final three days of the period. This was done to stabilize their internal clocks and minimize sleep deprivation prior to the study.
"White blood cell counts in a normal sleep/wake cycle were compared to the numbers produced during the second part of the experiment, in which blood samples were collected during 29 hours of continual wakefulness," the researchers reported. "The greatest changes were seen in the white blood cells known as granulocytes, which showed a loss of day-night rhythmicity, along with increased numbers, particularly at night."
"Future research will reveal the molecular mechanisms behind this immediate stress response and elucidate its role in the development of diseases associated with chronic sleep loss," Dr. Katrin Ackermann, a post-doctoral researcher at the Eramus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam and lead author of the study, said in a statement. "If confirmed with more data, this will have implications for clinical practice and for professions associated with long-term sleep loss, such as rotating shift work."
Prior research had discovered a correlation between sleep restriction or deprivation with the onset of diabetes, hypertension, obesity, and other diseases, the AASM said. Furthermore, other studies have found that sleep can help sustain a properly-functioning immune system, and that chronic sleep loss can be a risk factor that hampers a body's immunity, they added.