A bad night's sleep could reduce your ability to handle oxidative stress, cause impacts to your health, speed aging and ultimately cut short your life.
In a study based on fruit fly, scientists from Oregon State University have outlined how a key gene that helps control circadian rhythms can improve the health of aging fruit flies if it is intact, but can result in significant health impacts, up to and including earlier death, if it is absent.
The research, published in the journal Aging, found that young fruit flies without this gene were able to handle some stress, but middle-aged and older flies were not.
"We're beginning to identify some of the underlying mechanisms that may help explain why organisms age," said Natraj Krishnan, a research associate in the OSU Department of Zoology. "This study suggests that young individuals may be able to handle certain stresses, but the same insults at an older age cause genetic damage and appear to lead to health problems and earlier death. And it's linked to biological clocks."
It's not completely clear how closely the effects of genetic damage in fruit flies correlate to humans and other animals, Krishnan said, but "the genes themselves, their molecular mechanisms and function is essentially the same, conserved through many millions of years of evolution." The "period" gene in fruit flies, for instance, is also found and expressed in almost every cell in the human body.
This research examined that gene, which is one of four primary genes that help control the biological clock in many animals - the rhythms that are related to the cycle of day and night, and can be disrupted by anything from inadequate sleep to jet lag or working the swing shift. The study used some normal fruit flies and other mutant flies in which the "period" gene was absent.
The work was done under the leadership of Jadwiga Giebultowicz, an OSU professor of zoology, in collaboration with Dr. Doris Kretzschmar from the Oregon Health and Sciences University.