Chronic, insufficient sleep can negatively affect immune cells, which may lead to inflammatory disorders and cardiovascular disease, according to a new study from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. More specifically, consistently losing an hour and a half of sleep a night potentially increases the risk.
The research, published September 21 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, is the first to show that sleep alters the structure of DNA inside the immune stem cells that produce white blood cells—also known as immune cells—and this can have a long-lasting impact on inflammation and contribute to inflammatory diseases. Immune cells fight infection, but if the number of these cells gets too high, they overreact and cause inflammation. The study is also the first to show that catching up on sleep doesn’t reverse the effects of sleep disruption.