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Signs of Sleep Deprivation in the Blood

Circulating fats and acids drop in people and rats that aren’t getting enough sleep.

Bob Grant
Bob Grant

Bob Grant is Editor in Chief of The Scientist, where he started in 2007 as a Staff Writer.

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FLICKR, JULIE VACCALLUZZO

Certain compounds involved in metabolism are measurably depleted in the blood of people and rats that are sleep deprived, according study published in PNAS this week (February 9).  Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine and their colleagues detected changes in several metabolites in the blood of rats and humans that slept only four hours a night for five nights, with two of these metabolites—oxalic acid, which is a byproduct of normal metabolism, and diacylglycerol 36:3, which plays a role in energy storage—dropping precipitously in both species.

The findings could help researchers develop a simple blood test for severe sleep deprivation that could be useful for making sure that pilots, long-haul truckers, and others whose jobs require alertness are sufficiently rested. The results may also shed light on the molecular mechanisms underlying the effects of sleep loss, a poorly understood area of physiology. Study...

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