SLEEP deprivation could cause permanent damage to DNA and increase the risk of cancer even in healthy young people, a University of Hong Kong (香港大學) study has found.
Lack of sleep could also lower the DNA’s self-repairing ability, according to the study results published in the journal Anaesthesia.
The study is the first on DNA damage in young adults who are required to work overnight shifts. Blood samples were taken over a period of four months from 49 full-time doctors at two local hospitals, divided into two groups.
“The on-site call group were full-time clinicians required to work regular overnight on-site calls no less than three times per month. The control group were full-time clinicians who were not required to work overnight on-site calls,” explained the report.
The study found 30 percent more DNA breaks in the on-call doctors. Such DNA damage was further increased by over 25 percent after a night of acute sleep deprivation.
“The results demonstrate that acute sleep deprivation and a frequently disrupted sleep cycle are associated with DNA damage,” it said, adding that the results are in line with earlier studies on elderly people and animals.
DNA damage is a change in the basic structure of DNA that is not repaired when the DNA is replicated.
(This article is published on Junior Standard on 19 February 2019)
The effect of sleep deprivation on DNA damage
Sleep statistics of Hong Kong youth