It has previously been established through epidemiological studies that people who sleep less than they should have a higher risk of contracting cardiovascular diseases, a higher risk of mortality from cardiovascular diseases, and a higher overall mortality over a set time span.
The study examined the impact of cumulative sleep deprivation on cholesterol metabolism in terms of both gene expression and blood lipoprotein levels. With state-of-the-art methods, a small blood sample can simultaneously yield information about the activation of all genes as well as the amounts of hundreds of different metabolites. This means it is possible to seek new regulating factors and metabolic pathways which participate in a particular function of the body.
The study established that the genes which participate in the regulation of cholesterol transport are less active in persons suffering from sleep loss than with those getting sufficient sleep. This was found both in the laboratory-induced sleep loss experiment and on the population level. Study also found increased expression in pathways involved in inflammatory responses.
The results highlight the health impact of good sleep. The researchers emphasize that health education should focus on the significance of good, sufficient sleep in preventing common diseases, in addition to healthy food and exercise. Even a small reduction in illnesses, or even postponing the onset of an illness, would result in significant cost savings for society at large.