Poor Sleep Could Lead to Weight Gain and Diabetes

Sleep’s not just to give your brain a break, new research finds. It’s also to give your fat cells a break.

Sleep deprivation has long been associated with impaired brain function, causing decreased alertness and reduced cognitive ability. The latest finding — published by University of Chicago Medicine researchers in the Oct. 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine — is the first description of a molecular mechanism directly connecting sleep loss to the disruption of energy regulation in humans, a process that can lead over time to weight gain, diabetes and other health problems. The study suggests that sleep’s role in energy metabolism is at least as important as it is in brain function.

Without proper sleep -getting just 4.5 hours for four nights in a row – researchers found the body’s ability to respond to insulin decreases by 30 percent – “comparable to the difference between cells from obese vs. lean participants or from people with diabetes versus non-diabetic[s].”

Researcher Matthew Brady hopes this study will lead to a way to help the sick improve their health through better sleep. “If we can deprive healthy people of sleep and make them worse, can we take sick people, such as those with the common combination of sleep apnea, obesity and diabetes, improve their sleep and make them better?” Brady asked. “That’s the missing link in the sleep-obesity-diabetes connection.”

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