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Sleep Well - Your Genes Depend On It

Getting enough high-quality rest may affect our health right down to the level of our genes.

That’s the takeaway from a significant breakthrough made by sleep researchers this year, linking sleep shortages to altered gene function. Scientists at England’s University of Surrey investigated how sleep deprivation might influence genetic activity. They found that a week of mild sleep deprivation—sleeping slightly less than 6 hours per night—altered the function of more than 700 genes in the body. This level of mild sleep deprivation also weakened the alignment of several hundred genes to the body’s 24-hour circadian clock. 

Many of the genes affected by low sleep were related to critical physiological processes, including regulation of stress, inflammation, metabolic function, and the immune system. With the abundance of information we have linking poor sleep to health problems, we still understand relatively little about exactly how insufficient and poor quality sleep contribute to illness and disease. This discovery may prove significant in furthering that understanding, and may open up important new avenues for both research and treatment of chronic illness.

Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist and both a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. With a specialty in Sleep Disorders, Dr. Breus is one of only 163 psychologists in the world with his credentials and distinction.As the subject of sleep continues to gain momentum in our sleep-deprived society, Dr. Breus has become a widely recognized leader in this ever-evolving field. Dedicated to raising awareness of both medically diagnosed sleep disorders and the importance of quality sleep for all, Dr. Breus is on a mission to develop innovative education and communication programs.