Smoking Affects Circadian Rhythm, Study Finds

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A new study shows that smoking leads to changes that ultimately affect functioning of the lung's circadian clock -- suggesting smoking can negatively affect sleep.

Researchers from the University of Rochester Medical Center exposed mice to long-term (six months) and acute (three days and 10 days) cigarette smoke. They found that the clock gene expression was altered and lung inflammation was increased with the smoke exposure. The lung inflammation also led to emphysema.

The cigarette smoke seemed to have an effect specifically on a molecule called SIRTUIN1; reductions in levels of this molecule affected levels of BMAL1, a clock protein, in the lungs and brains of the mice.

In addition, researchers exposed human lung tissue to cigarette smoke (the lungs were from people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, as well as smokers); they also found reductions in SIRTUIN1.

"This study has found a common pathway whereby cigarette smoke impacts both pulmonary and neurophysiological function," study researcher Irfan Rahman, Ph.D., of the Department of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in a statement. "Further, the results suggest the possible therapeutic value of targeting this pathway with compounds that could improve both lung and brain functions in smokers."

The new findings are published in The FASEB Journal.

Men's Health previously reported that smokers are more likely to experience sleep problems -- including having trouble falling asleep and experiencing middle insomnia -- than nonsmokers. The author of that study, Joseph McNamara, Ph.D., told the publication that nicotine is likely the culprit.

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