How Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Ruin Your DNA, Microbiome, and Shorten Your Life

woman sleeping in bed with white sheets|How Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Ruin Your DNA, Microbiome, and Shorten Your Life

Not getting enough sleep can really take its toll on your life. Anyone who has missed their recommended seven hours consistently will understand how a lack of sleep can negatively affect you. But research shows that not getting enough sleep can do far more than just leave you feeling groggy.

Lack Of Sleep; How Does It Affect You?

Related: Sleep Deficit Lowers Immunity, Increases Pain Disorders, and Weight Gain

Scientists believe that sleep deprivation can actually damage your DNA and increase your risk of early death. Not to mention the impact it can have on your gut microbiome. Despite sleep being essential, millions of Americans still struggle to get good quality and consistent sleep. This is why it is imperative to get enough sleep so you will be well-rested every day.

How not getting enough sleep can impact your life:

  1. Damage your DNA
  2. Increase the risk of early death
  3. May raise the risk of cancer
  4. Disrupt the gut microbiome
  5. Change your metabolism

The Latest in Sleep Deprivation Research

/tired-sleepy-woman-yawning-working-office-| Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Ruin Your DNA, Microbiome, and Shorten Your Life

Sleep is critical to good health. Getting a good night’s sleep does more than just make you feel refreshed, it serves a very specific service. Sleep is absolutely essential for survival. Scientists have studied sleep for decades but recent evidence sheds light on certain mechanisms previously unknown.

The first symptoms of sleep deprivation are tiredness, difficulty concentrating, and even irritability. Many people have experienced these symptoms. Far fewer people have felt the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation like hallucinations and paranoia. Often, people stay up late checking work emails and wake up early to get ahead in the day. In a world where everyone is trying to make the most out of every minute, you tend to cut out valuable sleeping hours to be more efficient. But what are you really sacrificing?

Research from the University of Hong Kong explored the link between DNA damage and sleep deprivation. When you sleep, important processes occur such as repair, memory formation, and hormone regulation. The study into sleep deprivation and DNA featured two groups: 25 physicians with 7-8 hours of sleep and 24 on-call physicians who slept between 2-4 hours per shift. Researchers found the on-call physicians experienced an increase in DNA damage and a decrease in DNA gene repair expression.  

What’s worrying is that the changes to the DNA molecule took place after just one night of poor sleep. This shows how important adequate sleep is to your health at a DNA-level. The problem with this is that when you damage DNA and it’s unable to repair, it could lead to a higher chance of several genetic diseases such as cancer.

Related: What Is Epigenetics: Your Mind’s Influence Over Your Health

New Study: Sleep Deprivation, Early Death and the Gut

Sleep continues to be a hot topic for scientists as they try to figure out the precise reason why we need sleep and what happens during every sleep stage. Although research has been carried out for decades, sleep remains somewhat of a mystery.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School have now identified a link between sleep deprivation and early death. They found that sleep loss actually builds up in the gut. When deprived of sleep, the subjects experienced a buildup of highly dangerous molecules called reactive oxygen species (ROS). When ROS are not taken care of by antioxidants, they become extremely dangerous in the body. The findings may open up new approaches to help people who battle with the harmful effects of sleep deprivation.

5 Ways Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Impact Your Life

dna strands| Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Impact Your Life|Damages Your DNA

1. Damages Your DNA

A lack of sleep can affect the genes associated with both DNA repair and DNA damage. As previous studies point out, just a small amount of sleep deprivation can begin to impact your gene expression.

Certain areas of society may naturally experience more sleep deprivation than others such as shift workers or new parents. Research shows that there is a link between sleep deprivation in shift workers and adverse health effects. This includes an increase in DNA damage which significantly impacts the development of chronic diseases. Further research is needed to delve deeper into the effect sleep deprivation can have on your DNA.

The emerging field of epigenetics suggests that epigenetic changes actually happen following sleep deprivation. In the future, these changes in the epigenome could be targeted to help with sleep-related disorders and treatment. Epigenetics refers to the way your self-perception encodes your DNA. You are an extension of your environment and these perceptions you have could eventually impact your mental and physical health.

Related: DNA, RNA and Epigenetics

2. Increase the Risk of Early Death

Although the majority of people know that they should get seven hours of sleep every night, it doesn’t always happen. Whether it’s a busy schedule, shift work, or sleep-related disorders, many people don’t get enough sleep.

Research shows that people who consistently get less than six hours of sleep every night were 12% more likely to experience early death over 25 years. Another study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that sleep deprivation may play a pivotal role in cardiovascular disease. In the United States, stroke and heart attack are two of the biggest killers. Evidence suggests that sleep may play a bigger role in these types of diseases than originally thought.

3. May Raise the Risk of Cancer

Long-term sleep disruption may increase the risk of cancer. Cancer and sleep have long been intertwined. For example, several years of shift work may throw off your biological clock and increase your risk of cancer. This is because exposure to light during nighttime hours may lower your melatonin levels. In turn, this could encourage cancer to grow.

When you consistently don’t get enough sleep and your circadian rhythm is disrupted, it may put you at a higher risk of several health issues. One study found a relationship between cancer and women with irregular work schedules. Your work can majorly influence your sleep cycle and intervene with your normal sleeping behavior.

Related: The Science Behind Our Sleeping Habits: How We can Use It

fermented foods in glass jars|Ways Not Getting Enough Sleep Can Impact Your Life|Disrupt the Gut Microbiome

It may be surprising to hear that a lack of sleep can affect so many different areas of your health. From your DNA to your gut, not getting enough sleep can set an imperfect foundation.

Research shows that your gut health and sleep are linked. Besides following a healthy diet, staying hydrated and exercising regularly, sleep also needs to be high on your list of priorities.

One study shows that poor sleep can negatively impact your gut microbiome. Poor sleep can bring about a number of health issues. Your gut microbiome is made up of billions of bacteria that all work together in a perfectly balanced ecosystem. However, when your microbiome is out of balance, it can have a massive effect on things like your mood, your weight, and contribute to autoimmune disorders.

Related: The Gut-Brain Connection: How Gut Health Affects Your Mood

Your gut and sleep influence your digestion and can even impact your mental health. Although a lack of sleep appears to influence your gut microbiome, it’s thought that your gut can also affect your sleep. Researchers believe that if you improve your gut microbiome and boost friendly bacteria and diversity, it could help to solve some sleep disorder problems.

4. Change Your Metabolism

A lack of sleep may change your fat metabolism. This refers to the metabolism process that breaks down fats and turns them into energy. Research shows that a restricted sleep schedule similar to the standard American work week made participants feel less full after a fatty meal. Scientists found that poor sleep also leads to changes in the way the body metabolized food.


Related: Trying To Lose Weight? Consider Healing Your Gut Bacteria

How To Get Better, Consistent Sleep

If you have trouble sleeping, you’re not alone. More and more Americans have trouble not only falling asleep but staying asleep. For many people, getting the recommended hours of sleep every night is tough. The problem is that it’s not just about the hours you spend asleep but the quality of sleep you have. To consistently get better sleep, try the following tips:

  • Sleep and wake up at the same time.
  • Spend time outside in the daylight.
  • Limit your caffeine intake.
  • Develop a relaxing nightly sleep routine.
  • Incorporate habits that reduce stress
  • Take a magnesium supplement

Related: Sleep Like a Baby! How to Consistently Get Better Sleep

If you’ve ever been tossing and turning, unable to fall asleep, you know how awful it feels to not get a good night’s sleep. Besides feeling grumpy and groggy, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation are incredibly real. Not getting enough sleep affects your cognitive abilities and puts you at a higher risk of developing several negative health conditions. Not to mention the impact it can have on your DNA, microbiome, and overall length of life. To get better sleep, start by making small changes to your lifestyle like ditching your afternoon coffee or going device-free two hours before bed. Little changes can go a long way in helping you to achieve more consistent quality sleep.

Want to learn natural ways to get a good night sleep? Watch this video with Sheree Clark to get more ideas on how to get to sleep and stay asleep.



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