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Updated: Sunday, 15 Jul 2012, 1:35 PM CDT
Published : Sunday, 15 Jul 2012, 1:35 PM CDT
AUSTIN (KXAN) - Depriving your body of sleep could have the same effect on your immune system as stress, according to a new study . Dutch and British researchers found that loss of sleep triggers the production of white blood cell counts (known as granulocytes) at night.
The researchers tracked the white blood cell count of 15 healthy young men who followed a strict schedule of eight hours of sleep for a week and then kept them awake for 29 hours so they could evaluate the effects of sleep deprivation.
The granulocytes reacted immediately to the physical stress of sleep loss and directly mirrored the body's stress response," Dutch researcher Katrin Ackermann, Ph.D. of the Eramus MC University Medical Center Rotterdam, said in a statement.
Dr. Wang from the Heart Hospital of Austin says this new information could affect many people. "The average adult needs 7 to 9 hours of sleep and most of us don't actually get that ideal amount." Dr. Wang points out that even sleep deprivation itself can lead to high blood pressure, which leads to heart problems, "but if you also have a sleep disorder on top of that, such as sleep apnea, that causes even worse problems."
Sleep apnea is a condition where you stop breathing in your sleep and this can put a lot of strain on your body and your heart. Most people who have sleep apnea aren't aware of it.
Dr. Wang says that is a problem because if you do have it, it's crucial to seek treatment. He says sleep apnea can triple your risk of having a heart attack or angina. He recommends taking their online Simple sleep test to learn more about your sleeping patterns and find out if you possibly have a sleep disorder.
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