A new study hints at the potential antioxidant benefits of sleep, as well as the damage that getting too little sleep may cause. Researchers studied the lowly fruit fly to help understand the role sleep may play in health, finding that fruit flies with a mutation that resulted in short sleeping times were sensitive to oxidative stress.
The study was published this week in the journal PLOS Biology, where researchers with Columbia University detail the negative health effects observed in flies that got too little sleep. According to the study, these mutant fruit flies are sensitive to acute oxidative stress, indicating that sleep may itself play an antioxidant role.
Sleep is essential and no living creature can live long without it. However, sleep deprivation has become a chronic issue in society due to a combination of reasons, including everything from overly hectic work schedules to the disrupting effects of artificial light. Lack of sleep has been linked with various health conditions like high blood pressure, but many questions remain.
The Drosophila fruit fly has a mutation that results in short sleeping times; the creatures suffer due to their lack of sleep, at least when it comes to oxidative stress. Conversely, sleeping helps the body combat oxidative stress.
As well, the study found that over-expressed antioxidant genes had the effect of reducing oxidative stress while also reducing the duration of sleep. Researchers point toward oxidative stress as something that itself may induce sleep, which then combats the issue. All of this points toward sleep deprivation possibly increasing a person’s sensitivity to oxidative stress, paving the way for diseases thought to result at least partly from it.