Researchers and studies are constantly telling us that having a good night’s sleep is the corner stone to good health.

It is a time that our body repairs itself, is one of the best stress relievers and a time for our minds to problem-solve and subconsciously prepare for the day ahead. But is it also a crucial necessity for the health of our DNA?

Pulling an all-nighter might seem like the only option to cram for that important exam in the morning, to socialise with the night owls within your group of friends or even just because you’re so close to finishing that Breaking Bad boxset – but it may pose some more serious problems for our bodies than previously thought.

Sleep Loss Damages DNA according to Tests

This has become more apparent as a research team in Sweden have discovered that missing just one night’s sleep can alter the genes that control our body’s cellular biological clocks.

These biological clocks can affect a number of things, from changes in our body temperature, appetite and even brain activity.

Jonathan Cedernaes, lead author and researcher at Uppsala University also pointed to sleep losses link to increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes saying: “Since ablation of clock genes in animals can cause these disease states, our current results indicate that changes of our clock genes may be linked to such negative effects cause by sleep loss.”

The study itself involved 15 healthy average-weight men, who went to the laboratory to stay overnight for a number of sessions.

One of the nights involved participants sleeping as usual over eight hours, whereas in the rest of the sessions they were kept awake, but still restricted to their beds.

Furthermore, light conditions, food intake and activity levels were also strictly controlled within the laboratory to ensure that these were not a factor that could alter their DNA.

Upon studying tissue samples taken from the participants, researchers used DNA analysis to discover that the regulation and activity of clock genes was changed after one night of sleep loss, effecting a biological mechanism called epigenetics.

Epigenetics involves chemical changes to the DNA molecule which regulates how the genes are switched on or off. With sleep loss increasing the numbers of such DNA marks but also altering how much ‘product’ is made by that gene.

DNA Damage – Permanent or Temporary?

Dr Cedernaes said: “As far as we know, we are the first to directly show that epigenetic changes can occur after sleep loss in humans, but also in these important tissues.

“It was interesting that the methylation of these genes could be altered so quickly, and that it could occur for these metabolically important clock genes.”

How permanent these changes are is still unclear as Dr Cedernaes explains: “It could be that these changes are reset after one or several nights of good sleep.

“On the other hand, epigenetic marks are suggested to be able to function a sort of metabolic memory, and have been found to be altered in shift workers and people suffering from type 2 diabetes, for example.

“This could mean that at least some types of sleep loss or extended wakefulness, as in shift work, could lead to changes in the genome of your tissues that can affect your metabolism for longer periods.”

What a difference a good night’s sleep makes. Because our peace-of-mind home DNA test kits have next day results* as standard and our legal DNA testing have 3 days results* as standard, there is no need to lose much sleep over your DNA testing.

If you require DNA testing, which is incredibly accurate and provides quick results then please contact our friendly UK-based customer service team on 0333 600 1300 or or get in touch if you have any enquiries regarding our DNA tests.

*working days from when the samples arrive at our laboratory before 10.00am