Whether you’re a night-shift worker or a hard-working student, pulling an all-nighter can be detrimental to more than 100 proteins in the blood, researchers are reporting. In a study involving six healthy men, the researchers exposed the subjects to a simulated night-shift pattern in which they slept during the day and stayed up all night. The all-nighter shift disrupted the expression and timing of 129 kinds of blood proteins, including a protein that plays a key role in controlling blood sugar levels. The findings may help explain why people who work the night shift are more likely to develop diabetes and other chronic illnesses, they say. The study could also help develop treatments to lessen the impact of sleep disturbances, the researchers predict. Their study, which was partly funded by NHLBI, appeared in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
“This [study] tells us that when we experience things like jet lag or a couple of nights of shift work, we very rapidly alter our normal physiology in a way that if sustained can be detrimental to our health,” said senior author Kenneth Wright, Ph.D., director of the Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory and professor in the Department of Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado Boulder. The study is the first to examine how protein levels in human blood vary over a 24-hour period, the researchers say. They note that the initial study size was limited to a small group of healthy men whose biological characteristics were well-characterized and add that larger, more detailed studies are needed in the future that include both men and women.