A recent study conducted at The Sleep Research Centre at the University of Surrey in England identified a subset of 68 genes in blood samples and could detect whether the sample was taken from a sleep-deprived or well-rested person with 92% accuracy, according to a report in Sleep Review.
Researchers say identifying the biomarkers is the first step toward developing a blood test that can accurately calculate how much sleep a person has had.
This new discovery could set the stage for a future test specifically designed to assess sleep deprivation in motorists.
In the U.S., recent data from the AAA Foundation found that observable driver drowsiness, that is, drowsiness assessed on the basis of eyelid closures, was present in an estimated 8.8% to 9.5% of all crashes and 10.6% to 10.8% of those severe enough to be reportable to the police.
In fact, drivers who get just one to two hours less then the recommended seven to eight hours of sleep per night nearly double their likelihood of getting into a collision according to the AAA Foundation.
The new study at University of Surrey involved 36 participants who were required to skip a night of sleep. The research team, led by Derk-Jan Dijk, took blood samples, measured changes in the expression of thousands of genes, and then utilized a machine learning algorithm to identify the biomarkers, reports Sleep Review.
The researchers say that the very existence of the biomarkers in the blood after only a period of 24-hour wakefulness point to the physiological impact a lack of sleep can have on the body. They also note that the current test detects acute total sleep loss. Down the line, the team hopes to identify biomarkers for chronic insufficient sleep.