New research has revealed a potential connection between broken sleep and cardiovascular damage. The animal study, which was performed on mice, involved moving a bar across the bottom of the animals’ cages while they were sleeping. These mice were tested against normal mice who were allowed to sleep normally.
The sleep fragmentation treatment reduced the mice’s blood levels of hypocretin, a protein produced in the brain that promotes wakefulness, increases food intake and stimulates the part of the nervous system related to the fight or flight response.
The absence of hypocretin triggers the development of certain cells in the body and bone marrow that promote the formation of atherosclerotic plaque in the cardiovascular system, a substance involved in the development of coronary heart disease and other cardiovascular problems.
The sleep disturbance also stimulated the production of white blood cells in the mice, as well as colony-stimulating factor 1 (CSF-1), a substance that directly negatively affects artery walls.
Previously, a connection between sleep disorders and the increased risk of atherosclerosis had been made, but the mechanisms behind the relationship were unknown. This new research has not only uncovered the need for more study in this area, but also shows a potential bidirectional connection between narcolepsy and hypocretin deficiency.