Besides making you tired, lack of adequate sleep can short-circuit your system and interfere with a fundamental cellular process that drives physical growth, physiological adaptation and even brain activity, new research has found.
“When we misalign our behaviour with our circadian clock, for example by creating jet lag, or by working as a night owl, we do not only disrupt normal physiological processes such as cycles of appetite and body temperature,” said one of the researchers Albrecht von Arnim from University of Tennessee, Knoxville, US.
“This work in plants suggests that we may also be interfering with a more fundamental cellular process, protein synthesis,” von Arnim noted.
Muscle action, brain activity, growth and development are functions all performed by proteins whose synthesis is carefully regulated, he said.
Although the research was conducted in plants, the concepts may well translate to humans, according the researchers.
The team examined how protein synthesis — the process that determines how organisms grow and how cells renew themselves — changes over the course of the daily day-night cycle.
The team also explored whether any such changes are controlled by the organism’s internal time keeper, the circadian clock.
Proteins are newly created in every cell by translating messages made from the cell’s own DNA, the genome.
The researchers found that protein synthesis activity not only changed over the course of the day, but also that it was under the influence of the circadian clock.
The study was published in the journal Plant Cell.