According to a report published in the journal SLEEP by scientists from Netherlands and the United
Kingdom, lack of sleep and physical stress are equally detrimental and
can adversely affect our immune system.
The researchers from
Erasmus Medical Center at Rotterdam and the Faculty of Health and Medical
Sciences at the University of Surrey, United Kingdom, studied the number of
white blood cells (WBC) in 15 healthy young males with normal sleep and
compared them with the WBCs in healthy young males with severe sleep loss.
The circadian clocks
of the 15 young men studied had to be stabilized and for this reason they were
made to adhere to a strict regime of eight hours sleep every day, for a whole
week. Ninety minutes after waking up, they were exposed to 15 minutes of
out-door light. The subjects also had to stay away from caffeine, alcohol and
The white blood cells
of the subjects were then categorized and measured. A comparison was carried
out between the WBC counts taken for a week during their normal sleep/wake
cycle and the WBC counts during the second part of the experiment, when the
subjects had to remain sleepless for 29 hours.
It was found that in individuals
experiencing sleep deprivation day-to-night time
rhythmicity was lost as the number of WBCs shot up, especially during
nighttime. The most affected WBCs were the
Katrin Ackermann, PhD, the lead author said,"The
granulocytes reacted immediately to the physical stress of sleep loss and
directly mirrored the body's stress response."
Granulocyte is a subset of white blood cells, which
has microscopic granules that contain enzymes for digesting microorganisms.
They form a part of our innate immune system and unlike the B and T cells that
respond exclusively to specific antigens, the granulocytes have a broad based
Earlier studies have indicated that adequate
sleep is necessary for one's well being and for the immune system to work
Besides immune-impairment there are several
problems associated with sleep deprivation like memory lapses, cognitive
impairment, irritability, tremors aches, hallucinations, risk of heart disease,
diabetes and obesity.
There are several
reasons for sleep deprivations and the most common ones include stress, junk
food or an underlying medical condition.
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". "If confirmed with more data, this will have implications
for clinical practice and for professions associated with long-term sleep loss,
such as rotating shift work", Ackermann said.