Being sleep deprived can lead to many problems. Drowsy driving can be dangerous for both the drivers and the other people on road; it can cause accidents and crashes. In order to stop this, researchers have developed a blood test to examine whether one has skipped a night’s sleep.
During this study from the Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey, 36 participants skipped one night of sleep. During the 40-hour period of sleep deprivation, blood samples were taken and changes in the expression levels of thousands of genes were measured.
A machine learning algorithm identified a subset of 68 genes and with 92% accuracy could detect whether a sample was from a sleep-deprived or well-rested individual.
This discovery paves the way for a future test which will be able to assess if a driver was sleep deprived. Previous research in this area from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has shown that drivers who get just one to two hours less than the recommended daily allowance in a 24-hour period nearly double their risk for a car crash.
“Identifying these biomarkers is the first step to developing a test which can accurately calculate how much sleep an individual has had. The very existence of such biomarkers in the blood after only a period of 24-hour wakefulness shows the physiological impact a lack of sleep can have on our body,” said study author Simon Archer.
“This is a test for acute total sleep loss; the next step is to identify biomarkers for chronic insufficient sleep, which we know to be associated with adverse health outcomes,” said lead author Derk-Jan Dijk. The study could help police identify drowsy drivers in road accidents, or assist employers in assessing fitness for duty.