Sleeplessness starts to bring about dramatic changes in the body within just a few days, disrupting hundreds of genes, hindering the body's ability to repair itself, and raising the risk of illnesses linked to immunity and stress, according to new research. Researchers analyzed the blood of subjects after they had more than 10 hours sleep a night for a week and compared the results with tests taken after the subjects had less than six hours a night for a week, the BBC reports.
"There was quite a dramatic change in activity in many different kinds of genes," the lead researcher says. "Clearly sleep is critical to rebuilding the body and maintaining a functional state, all kinds of damage appears to occur—hinting at what may lead to ill health. If we can't actually replenish and replace new cells, then that's going to lead to degenerative diseases." Experts not involved with the study noted that if a way to turn off the gene changes associated with sleeplessness can be found, it could be possible to eliminate the effects of sleep deprivation—making sleep unnecessary.