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Why Loss Of Sleep Can Make You Sick.

EVERYONE loses sleep, say from staying up to watch a movie or read a book sometimes and the body is typically resilient enough to allow for that. But, when poor sleep becomes a constant, there health may be at risk.

Over the years, there have been a lot of data showing that persistent sleep deprivation, from studying or shift work, may increase the risk for diseases such as diabetes and heart attack. In fact, recent studies indicated that lack of sleep can cause fatigue, anxiety, depression, decreased attention and tolerance and affects the immune system.

Sleep deprivation causes the body to be stressed up, making individuals more susceptible to even relatively mild germs, including the common cold. According to a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, people with more stress are at higher risk of developing a cold.

In a University of Chicago study, participants whose sleep was restricted to four hours a night for six nights had, when vaccinated for influenza, less than half the immune response of those who had slept well. Similarly, another study found that even modest sleep loss - only one night, between 3 and 6 a.m. - significantly reduced white blood cell activity, a crucial line of defence against infection and cancer.

Why would sleep deprivation make you sick? A new study involving the common cold may help explain why stressor such as sleep deprivation or poor sleep quality, which dampens the immune system, seems to trigger inflammation in many people.

High and long-term levels of stress contribute to inflammation. In turn, the inflammation can lead to conditions such as heart disease, asthma and autoimmune disorders, in which the immune system turns against the body.

Inflammation is a process in the body that is essential to fighting infections and healing wounds. Therefore, the induction of inflammation by stress is a way for the body to prepare itself for battle in an environment that represents the danger of attack.

There is no question that stressed up people are at greater risk for developing some diseases or having them become more severe. What is unclear is exactly how that happens. But some researchers have linked this to the body clock.

The body's circadian clock is the part of the brain that governs many important physiological processes and human behaviour. Systems as diverse as hibernation, seasonal reproduction, fattening cycles, feeding cycles and sleep-wake rhythms are all driven from the circadian clock.

Is the immune system linked to the body clock? Do disruptions of the circadian clock influence our susceptibility to disease-causing germs? It has been known that there are variations in the immune system throughout the day and the immune system needs to detect an infection before it can begin to fight it off.

The research, in the journal Immunity, looking at exactly how the body clock affects the function of the immune system in mice, suggested that a disruption to normal daily rhythms, such as jet lag or sleep deprivation, may also affect the immune system.

The researchers first looked at a group of mice genetically engineered to have defective body clocks and another group of normal mice to identify any differences between the two groups in how their white blood cells (immune cells) responded to invading microorganisms.

They found that the differences identified related to a protein called Toll-like receptor 9 (TLR9). This protein recognises DNA from bacteria and viruses and plays a role in signaling to the immune system to mount an attack on these invading organisms.

In addition, the researchers also found that the levels of the protein that help to signal the immune system to mount an attack on invading organisms fluctuate naturally through the day, peaking at set times over a 24-hour cycle.

Professor Taiwo Adewole, a biochemist and Professor of Chemical Pathology, Osun State University, Osogbo, Osun State, stated that the working of the body is controlled by factors such as hormones which respond in accordance to the time of the day.

According to him, 'the body itself appears to operate in a kind of clock-like mechanism whereby something is better happening in the morning just as some things are better happening at night and no other time.'

'Sleep is best at night, for example. When you change that system to sleeping during the day, there is a problem.'

Professor Adewole said researchers first noticed that the level of cortisol, an important hormone, in the body varies with the time of the day. This is an important hormone that is related to several diseases, including hypertension, asthma and other immune-responsive diseases.

He stated: 'Blood pressure, for example, varies during the day. That is why it is suggested that when monitoring blood pressure, if it is possible, it is better that the measurement is taking at the same time of the day, say before bathing or just waking up in the morning because the body itself works as a biological clock.'

Ironically, he pointed out that 'people who keep faith with their body clock cycle (known as the circadian cycle) by sleeping when they should, eat at the right time and work when they should live longer and are at a lesser risk of diseases.'

The body immunity, he stated, can also be affected when the body's biological clock is disrupted for a long period of time.

He declared: 'People who break the rhythm of the body clock, first of all, are prone to stress. Prolonged stress leads to some biological disorders, which result in diseases and ultimately reduce longevity.

Meanwhile, the researchers stated that considering the direct link between the body clock and one aspect of the immune system in mice, this may have important implications for how vaccination and immune-system-related therapies are administered in humans.

It might mean that drugs need to be given at certain times of day in order to make them more effective, or drugs could be made which actually target the body clock to put the immune system into its most active phase.

But over the years, experts have found the amount of sleep each individual needs varies from one person to another. The general consensus seems to be that most people need somewhere between six and eight hours of sleep each night.

There's compelling research indicating that sleeping less than six hours at night may increase the insulin resistance and risk of diabetes. And recent studies have also shown that less than five hours of sleep at night can double one's risk of being diagnosed with heart disease, heart attack or stroke.
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Publication:Nigerian Tribune (Oyo State, Nigeria)
Date:Dec 20, 2018
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