Losing just one night of sleep can have a negative impact on human metabolism at the tissue level, according to a study published last week. The findings may explain how long-term shift work and chronic sleep loss can impair metabolism and adversely affect human body composition.
Previous studies have shown that the risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes is greater in those who suffer from chronic sleep loss or who carry out shift work.
The study is the first to link how sleep loss, at the cellular level, affects metabolism in two tissues that are key for regulating metabolism. It found that even one night of sleep loss – similar to the lack of sleep someone working an overnight shift might experience – can alter how genes and proteins are expressed in a tissue-specific manner in adipose tissue (fat) and skeletal muscle.
The study was published in the journal Science Advances.
“Until now, we’ve never known whether sleep loss can cause molecular changes at the tissue level, but now that we do, it may explain how disrupted or mistimed sleep in the long run can increase the risk of adverse weight gain in humans,” saidfirst author Dr. Jonathan Cedernaes, research associate in the department of endocrinology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, who conducted the research at Uppsala University in Sweden.
While one night of sleep loss negatively impacted the tissue, Dr. Cedernaes said the sleep loss would need to become chronic before leading to actual weight gain.