Severe sleep loss jolts the immune system into hyperactivity, producing the same response as thrown up by exposure to stress, says a study. Researchers in the Netherlands and UK compared the white blood cell counts of 15 healthy young men under normal and severely sleep-deprived conditions.
The greatest changes were seen in the white blood cells known as granulocytes, which showed a loss of day-night rhythmicity, along with increased numbers, particularly at night. ”The granulocytes reacted immediately to the physical stress of sleep loss and directly mirrored the body’s stress response,” said Katrin Ackermann, postdoctoral researcher at the Eramus MC University Medical Centre Rotterdam, the Netherlands. ”Future research will reveal the molecular mechanisms behind this immediate stress response and elucidate its role in the development of diseases associated with chronic sleep loss,” said Ackermann, who led the study, according to an Eramus statement.
Previous studies have linked sleep restriction and sleep deprivation with the development of obesity, diabetes and hypertension. Others have shown that sleep helps sustain the functioning of the immune system, and that chronic sleep loss is a risk factor for immune system impairment.