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A new study by University of Helsinki researchers has determined that a lack of sleep can impact mental and physical health both, leading to a greater risk of illness for the individual. Studies in the past have identified a lack of sleep with conditions that affect the immune system, inflammation in the body, appetite regulating hormones, and even how you metabolize carbohydrates. The latest study also shows that a lack of sleep could affect your physical health in other ways as well, including your cholesterol metabolism. The study results showed that people who get less sleep tend to have less active genes which are involved in the regulation of cholesterol transport in the body.

Sleep Team Helsinki researcher Vilma Aho, a doctoral student at the University of Helsinki, explained the connection between lack of sleep and poor physical health. Aho said “In this case, we examined what changes sleep loss caused to the functions of the body and which of these changes could be partially responsible for the elevated risk for illness. It is particularly interesting that these factors contributing to the onset of atherosclerosis, that is to say, inflammatory reactions and changes to cholesterol metabolism, were found both in the experimental study and in the epidemiological data. The experimental study proved that just one week of insufficient sleep begins to change the body’s immune response and metabolism. Our next goal is to determine how minor the sleep deficiency can be while still causing such changes.” This is something to think about when you are tempted to cut back on your sleep.