When thinking of how many hours one has slept, and how this affects one’s health, arguably one of the last connections one would make is a correlation between poor sleep health and pulmonary fibrosis. New research indicates that this should be a more prominent concern.
The study, published in the journal PNAS, has found that individuals who sleep for more than eleven hours a night or less than four hours a night are two to three times more likely to develop pulmonary fibrosis – an incurable lung condition, .
Due to the vast swathes of air pollution across the country, Indians are currently alert regarding lung conditions. The rise in lung-related diseases among non-smokers has sparked a spike in public awareness regarding such conditions. However, the intricacies of the situation are often omitted in public discourse.
While smoking is known to be one of the foremost risk factors for developing conditions such as lung cancer, recent reports from across India are noting that lung conditions are becoming far more frequent in individuals who have never used tobacco. Air pollution is a major driver of this rise. However, the recent PNAS study indicates there are more risk factors than just smoking or exposure to air pollution.
The study notes the interactions of the body’s circadian rhythm (commonly known as one’s body clock), a key controller of metabolism and hormone secretion and the lungs. In a healthy individual, the metabolic effect of the circadian rhythm is located primarily in the major airways. However, in those with fibrosis the effect extends to the alveoli — or smaller air passages.
Testing on a mouse model found that altering the circadian rhythm left them far more likely to develop pulmonary fibrosis. This fact was confirmed against human databases, with those reporting sleep duration falling outside of normal ranges showing an increased likeliness to also have pulmonary fibrosis. The finding was attributed to the capacity of a core clock protein, REVERBa, to alter the production of collagen, a key protein in lung fibrosis.
Such a finding will not account for the considerable burden of lung disease across India, of which pollution is likely to be the current major driver. However, the study does open up the discussion of the myriad of other risk factors of lung disease, encompassing a vast number of lifestyle choices including diet and exercise. With many Indians failing to get a good night’s sleep, greater public awareness of the detrimental effects of poor sleep health on overall wellbeing – be it a heightened risk of heart disease or, as the research suggests, increased risk of pulmonary fibrosis – is much needed.