Last updated on Jul 7th, 2020 at 02:24 pm

We know that not getting enough shuteye affects the brain, but now research has found that a lack of sleep is bad for your heart too…

If you’re getting less than seven hours of sleep a night, it could negatively be affecting your heart.

This is according to a new University of Colorado Boulder study that found people who sleep fewer than seven hours per night have lower levels of gene-regulating molecules, or microRNAs, which help dampen down inflammation in cells and support vascular health.

What are microRNAs and why do they matter?

MicroRNAs are small molecules that suppress gene expression of certain proteins in cells.

The exact function of circulating microRNAs in the cardiovascular system, and their impact on cardiovascular health is receiving a lot of scientific attention, and drugs are currently in development for a variety of diseases, including cancer, to correct impaired microRNA signatures.

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“They are like cellular brakes, so if beneficial microRNAs are lacking that can have a big impact on the health of the cell,” says senior author Christopher DeSouza, a professor of Integrative Physiology.

In another recent study, DeSouza’s group found that adult men who sleep six hours per night have dysfunctional endothelial cells – the cells that line blood vessels – and their arteries don’t dilate and constrict as well as those who have sufficient sleep.

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For the new study, which is the first to explore the impact of insufficient sleep on circulating microRNA signatures, DeSouza and his team took blood samples from 24 healthy men and women, age 44 to 62, who had filled out questionnaires about their sleep habits. Half slept 7 to 8,5 hours nightly; Half slept 5 to 6,8 hours nightly.

They measured the expression of nine microRNAs previously associated with inflammation, immune function or vascular health.

They found that people with insufficient sleep had 40 to 60 percent lower circulating levels of miR-125A, miR-126, and miR-146a, (previously shown to suppress inflammatory proteins) than those who slept enough.

Seven is the magic number for sleep

“Why seven or seven hours seems to be the magic number is unclear,” says DeSouza. “However, it is plausible that people need at least seven hours of sleep per night to maintain levels of important physiological regulators, such as microRNAs.”

DeSouza says that the takeaway message for those burning the midnight oil is this:

“Don’t underestimate the importance of a good night’s sleep.”

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Source: University of Colorado at Boulder via

While All4Women endeavours to ensure health articles are based on scientific research, health articles should not be considered as a replacement for professional medical advice. Should you have concerns related to this content, it is advised that you discuss them with your personal healthcare provider.