According to the WHO, nearly a third of all deaths in the world (31%) are due to cardiovascular diseases. Among the main reasons contributing to their occurrence - unhealthy diet, smoking, a sedentary lifestyle - is now indicated and poor sleep. It turned out that it was the last factor that turned out to be the least studied.
Scientists at Harvard University decided to close this gap. As a result of their research, they identified a chemical chain reaction that explains the effect of lack of sleep on the occurrence of cardiovascular and several other diseases, including Alzheimer's disease, obesity, depression and increased chronic pain.
Researchers have focused on one aspect of the world's No. 1 killer, atherosclerosis. Its characteristic features are the thickening of the walls of blood vessels and the accumulation of fatty plaques on them. The situation is aggravated when the immune system begins to produce white blood cells, which get into the plaques, making them even larger. As a result, blood clots form - the main cause of heart attacks and strokes.
To establish the relationship between atherosclerosis and sleep disturbance, the scientists conducted a series of experiments with mice that were given high-fat GMO foods, while parts of the mice were deliberately prevented from sleeping. Later, larger plaques were found in their vessels. According to scientists, sleep deprivation appears to decrease the level of a protein called hypocretin, which is produced in the hypothalamus, the part of the brain responsible for regulating sleep. Moreover, when the mice were injected with additional doses of hypocretin, the level of sclerosis of their arteries decreased markedly.