Just one episode of binge drinking can alter your sleep genes. That was the shocking finding of a study released by the University of Missouri School of Medicine. The study was intended to understand the mechanisms of how sleep deprivation may contribute to alcoholism in humans. It explored how binge drinking effects sleep, which it does, but the study also showed that binge drinking alters genes that affect sleep.
Mahesh Thakkar, PhD, professor and director of research in the MU School of Medicine Department of Neurology, was the lead researcher in the study. He discovered the precise gene that is important for sleep homeostasis was altered by just one day of binge drinking.
In a previous 2014 study disrupted sleep homeostasis was found to be due to alcohol-induced downregulation of the sleep-promoting adenosine (AD) system. Thakkar and his team found that binge drinking did, in fact, alter the sleep patterns in the exposed mice due to the reduction of adenosine. They also noticed the mice in the study did not experience an increase in sleep pressure during sleep deprivation, which is normal in healthy sleep patterns. Even over subsequent days after the binge-drinking episode, the mice experienced increased waking periods and reduced sleep time.
Surprised by the results, Thakkar said, "We were not expecting this. We thought it would be affected after multiple sessions of binge drinking, not one. That tells you that as soon as you consume four drinks, it can alter your genes."
These findings are important, especially as we are in vacation season and many people may binge drink on vacation. Binge drinking is a serious problem and these findings confirm that just one night out could alter your genes.
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