Why does sleep deprivation affect cognitive function of some more than others?

The work, from Penn Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, reveals that microRNAs may play a role

Why does sleep loss affect the cognitive function of some people more profoundly than others? The key may be found in microRNAs, small non-coding RNAs that help regulate gene expression, according to a new study from researchers at the Perelman School of Medicine.

Many studies connect sleep loss with cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and other disorders, and it is well known that sleep loss negatively affects cognitive performance. However, different people experience those adverse effects differently, and little is known about how to accurately predict and detect these individual sleep-deprivation deficits.

This study, led by Namni Goel, an associate professor of Psychology in Psychiatry, is the first to find that microRNAs in the blood are changed by total sleep deprivation for 39 hours, and by psychological stress, and can predict the resulting cognitive performance in adults. The findings can be used to identify who is most at risk for the negative effects of sleep deprivation, and thus should receive medical assistance to prevent those effects.

She and colleagues from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia presented these findings at SLEEP 2018, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Read more at Penn Medicine News.