Sleep deprivation doesn’t just make you groggy and give you problems that can be solved by a strong dose of caffeine. It make you more susceptible to a variety of disorders including cancer and diabetes.
Our Body has a 24-hour Rhythm
In response to the rotation of the earth, many of our body’s processes follow a 24-hour rhythmic cycle. This cycle helps our body respond better to systematic changes in the environment that occur at different times of the day. Chronic sleep deprivation can disrupt this rhythm. Previously, it has been seen that people exposed to regular sleep disruption, shift workers for example, are more prone to chronic diseases like obesity, diabetes and even cancer.Increased inflammation—a response of the immune system— is one of the underlying mechanisms of these diseases. This led to the hypothesis that irregularities in the body clock could lead to a change in the immune response. For the first time, researchers have discovered the molecular connection that confirms it.
Immune System Cries Out in the Absence of Protein CRY
Researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies have found that a body clock component, called protein cryptochrome (CRY) has been found to regulate the levels of pro-inflammatory molecules in the body, thus forming the connection between the body clock (also called ‘circadian rhythm’) and disease. They deleted the CRY genes in mice and then checked the state of the immune system. They found that the immune system was constantly in a state of stress called ‘metainflammation’ in the absence of the CRY proteins and constantly expressed proinflammatory molecules called cytokines through a pathway called the NF-кb pathway.
Cryptochrome is an essential component of the circadian rhythm. It is an inhibitor of other proteins, a molecule that tells the body to slow down in the evening, and gear up in the morning for the following day. This immune response to the absence of CRY is akin to the body being in a state of preparedness for war all the time. It wears the body down, and as previously mentioned, is known to be involved in various diseases.
So remember to get your dose of shut-eye every day. It’s not a luxury you can afford to neglect.
You can read about this research here.