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How your late nights may cause early death

Kristen Fischer is a copywriter, author and journalist based in New Jersey. She is a Certified Professional Resume Writer (CPRW) and host on the monthly podcast, Freelance Radio. Learn more about Kristen at www.kristenfischer.com.

Interrupted sleep affects your genes

Missing out on your ZZZs? Careful — a new study finds that it can affect your genes, cause health problems and may even trigger an early death.

Tired woman working on computer at night

Night owls beware — a new study finds that sleeping during the day can really mess with your bod.

Scientists at the University of Surrey's Sleep Research Center in the U.K. evaluated people's bodies when they interrupted their sleep at regular intervals during a three-day span. They found that daytime sleeping interfered with participants' genes, and staying up late was linked to gene disruption and other health problems.

"This research may help us to understand the negative health outcomes associated with shift work, jet lag and other conditions in which the rhythms of our genes are disrupted," said Derk-Jan Dijk, professor of sleep and physiology, study author and director of the research center.

In a light-controlled sleep lab, Dijk postponed bedtimes by four hours a day until study participants were out of sync with their normal biological clock by 12 hours. (So they were sleeping during the day instead of at night, as they did before the study.) The goal in doing so was to emulate working a night shift or the experience of jet lag.

After evaluating blood samples, the researchers noted decreased gene expression, which can affect the body's circadian rhythms and other functions such as stress level, metabolism, inflammation and immune response. In recent years, more sleep studies have found that shift work, late nights and ambient light correlate to everything from depression to early death.

In essence, the results don't look good for those working the night shift, business travelers, college students who stay up late and anyone else deprived of sleep. Many of these people try to sleep on off-hours to "catch up."

A recent poll by the National Sleep Foundation found that 43 percent of Americans between the ages of 13 and 64 never or rarely get a full night's sleep during the work and school week.

The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Another recent study reported by Reuters found that a consistent schedule is linked to better sleep.

"For example, people reported better sleep quality and fewer awakenings at night when they were consistent in the time they first went outside," study Natalie Dautovich, a researcher at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa.

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