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.
AdvertisementThe 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 some medications.
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 granulocytes.
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 activity.
Earlier studies have indicated that adequate sleep is necessary for one's well being and for the immune system to work properly.
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.
"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". "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.