Sleep deprivation alters the expression of hundreds of genes, including some whose activity normally varies depending on the time of day.

Derk-Jan Dijk and his team at the University of Surrey in Guildford, UK, allowed study participants to sleep for up to 10 hours every night for one week and up to 6 hours a night another week. At the end of each week, all 26 participants were asked to stay awake for about 40 hours.

Genes affected by sleep deprivation included those involved in DNA packaging, gene-expression regulation, metabolism, and inflammatory, immune and stress responses. The authors suggest that studying the effects of sleep on gene expression can help to show how sleep deficits are linked to problems, such as cognitive impairment and obesity.

Proc. Natl Acad. Sci. USA (2013)