Researchers from the University of Helsinki show that lack of sleep impairs cholesterol metabolism. Apparently, people deprived of sleep suffer from fewer levels of high-density lipoproteins (HDL), also known as the good cholesterol that carries the bad cholesterol or low-density lipoproteins to the liver for processing.

Earlier studies have proven that sleep loss impairs the immune system, encourages inflammation, malfunctions carbohydrate metabolism and disrupts the hormones that regulate the appetite, but the new results may help explain why sleep loss increases one’s risk of cardiovascular disease.

The researchers studied the consequences of increasing sleep deprivation on the cholesterol metabolism in a group of volunteers, restricting their sleep to four hours per night within five days. They also analysed data from a large Finnish population survey and Young Finns Study.


Sleeping lowers your HDL, a new study found. Credit: Pixabay/Wokandapix

“It is particularly interesting that these factors contributing to the onset of atherosclerosis, that is to say, inflammatory reactions and changes to cholesterol metabolism, were found both in the experimental study and in the epidemiological data,” explains Vilma Aho, a researcher from the Sleep Team Helsinki research group.

The researchers assert that their new study shows the importance of having a good sleep. The team insists on conducting health education to inform more people about the importance of sufficient sleep and its role in preventing health problems as well as the significance of eating healthy food and exercising regularly.

Apart from the clear health benefits of their recommendations, the research team points that these health habits can also lessen a person’s financial burden in the long run. The researchers are planning further studies to verify the minimum amount of sleep loss required to cause diseases.

“The experimental study proved that just one week of insufficient sleep begins to change the body’s immune response and metabolism,” adds Aho. “Our next goal is to determine how minor the sleep deficiency can be while still causing such changes.”