Losing an hour-and-a-half of sleep each night on a consistent basis may lead to inflammatory disorders and cardiovascular disease, according to a new study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City.
The study — published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine on Wed., Sept. 21, 2022 — found that a chronic lack of sleep could affect a person’s immune cells and contribute to inflammation in the body.
“An increase of inflammation makes you susceptible to a whole bunch of problems, in particular cardiovascular diseases,” co-lead investigator Cameron McAlpine, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine (cardiology) at Icahn Mount Sinai, told Fox News Digital in an interview.
McAlpine is one of the researchers who participated in the new study.
Lead author Filip Swirski, Ph.D., director of the Cardiovascular Research Institute at Icahn Mount Sinai, said in a news release, “This work emphasizes the importance of adults consistently sleeping seven to eight hours a day to help prevent inflammation and disease, especially for those with underlying medical conditions.”
The researchers said the study begins to identify the mechanisms in the body that link sleep and immunological health over the long term.
The study revealed that in humans and mice, disturbed sleep can influence the cell programming and rate of production of the immune cells; this can then cause the immune cells to lose their effectiveness in protecting against disease.
It can also affect the rate of production of these cells and potentially make infections worse.
Researchers also found disturbing evidence in the mice model study that these effects may be long-lasting.
“This is important because it is yet another key observation that sleep reduces inflammation and, conversely, that sleep interruption increases inflammation,” Swirski said in a news release.
McAlpine told Fox News Digital that the purpose of the study was to better understand how chronic sleep disruption may affect cardiovascular conditions that develop over time due to inflammation.
These findings, he said, may help with research involving other inflammatory diseases and conditions in the body, such as arthritis.
The study looked at long-term effects of chronic sleep deprivation, said McAlpine, compared to a short-term interruption in sleep over a few days.
He said the study helped identify biological mechanisms and pathways that link sleep and immune system health over a long period.
The investigators looked at 14 healthy adults who regularly sleep eight hours a night.
Participants were monitored at first as they slept at least eight hours a night for six weeks. The team of researchers took blood samples and analyzed the participants’ immune cells.
The group of participants then decreased their sleep time by 90 minutes each night for six weeks — and had their blood drawn and analyzed again.
The investigators compared the blood samples and found that all 14 participants had significant changes in their immune cells that they attributed to the lack of sleep.
The reduced sleep blood samples showed an altered DNA structure and an increased number of immune cells.
Typically, in a heightened state of inflammation, health experts explained to Fox News Digital that there are increased numbers of immune cells.
The researchers also looked at the effect of sleep disruption in mice.
In the mice model, groups of mice were allowed to sleep undisturbed, while another group was awakened throughout the night for 16 weeks.
The mice in the disrupted sleep group then went through uninterrupted sleep recovery for 10 weeks, according to the report.
The research team analyzed the immune stem cells and the cells from the groups of mice — and the findings were consistent with the human study, McAlpine said.
“We found in [both] the human and mice models [that] if you disturb sleep, you get heightened inflammation in the blood.”
The heightened state of inflammation in the mice that had fragmented sleep did not reverse even after sleep recovery, McAlpine also told Fox News Digital.
Not all stem cells responded to insufficient sleep in the same manner, he said.
“Unfortunately, in the human study, we did not assess recovery — but [we] did look at recovery in mice. And in mice, we found some parameters of inflammation did return to regular levels with sleep recovery — however, not all.”
McAlpine said that some cells did remain (after the sleep recovery) that predisposed mice to inflammation.
In a news release, the co-investigator said, “Our findings suggest that sleep recovery is not able to fully reverse the effects of poor-quality sleep. We can detect a molecular imprint of insufficient sleep in immune stem cells, even after weeks of recovery sleep. This … can cause the cells to respond in inappropriate ways, leading to inflammation and disease.”
McAlpine told Fox News Digital that the research team plans more study to understand what genes are being influenced by sleep — or pathways of genes that may respond to sleep. That will enable researchers to understand the impacts of sleep in more detail.