How sleep­less nights can trig­ger weight gain

The Borneo Post - Nature and health - - Vital Signs -

ONE SLEEP­LESS night might tip the body’s me­tab­o­lism to­ward stor­ing fat while de­plet­ing mus­cle, new re­search sug­gests. Many stud­ies have linked poor sleep -- whether from in­som­nia or work­ing the night shift -to weight gain and health con­di­tions like type 2 di­a­betes. But that type of re­search leaves open the ques­tion of whether sleep loss it­self is to blame. A grow­ing num­ber of lab stud­ies, zero­ing in on the ef­fects of sleep de­pri­va­tion, sug­gest the an­swer is “yes.” The new re­search adds to the ev­i­dence.

“We need mech­a­nis­tic stud­ies to un­der­stand the ef­fects of sleep loss,” said lead re­searcher Dr Jonathan Ced­er­naes, a re­search as­so­ciate at North­west­ern Univer­sity, in Chicago. Ced­er­naes said stud­ies have shown, for ex­am­ple, that sleep loss can change a range of mark­ers in the blood -- in­clud­ing blood su­gar, hor­mone lev­els and var­i­ous by-prod­ucts of me­tab­o­lism. For the new study, his team dug into the ef­fects within fat and mus­cle tis­sue -- look­ing at how gene ac­tiv­ity and protein lev­els in those tis­sues changed af­ter a sleep­less night.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tors found that in 15 young, healthy men, one night of sleep loss trig­gered changes that fa­vored fat stor­age and mus­cle break­down. “This doesn’t mean you should be alarmed by one night of sleep loss,” Ced­er­naes stressed. But, he added, the study raises the ques­tion of what would hap­pen if poor sleep be­comes a reg­u­lar pat­tern. The find­ings were pub­lished on­line in the jour­nal Science Ad­vances. A sleep re­searcher who was not in­volved in the study called the find­ings “ex­tremely im­por­tant.” “The find­ing that skele­tal mus­cle pro­teins de­crease, and (fat­pro­mot­ing) pro­teins in­crease, in re­sponse to sleep loss is a novel mech­a­nism by which sleep loss may pro­mote obe­sity and weight gain,” said Josiane Brous­sard, an as­sis­tant pro­fes­sor at Colorado State Univer­sity, in Fort Collins. With any lab study, how­ever, it’s

not clear how well the ar­ti­fi­cial con­di­tions re­flect real life.

Dr Eva Szen­tir­mai, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor at Washington State Univer­sity, in Spokane, who stud­ies sleep and me­tab­o­lism, said, “We don’t know if you would ob­serve sim­i­lar tis­sue-spe­cific changes dur­ing long-term, ha­bit­ual sleep loss -- which is com­mon in our so­ci­ety.” In ad­di­tion, the ex­per­i­ment did not fully cap­ture what it’s like to work at night, for ex­am­ple. The vol­un­teers spent two nights in the sleep lab: on one night, they could sleep for up to 8.5 hours; on the other night, they were kept awake all night, but had to stay in bed.

The point, Ced­er­naes ex­plained, was to iso­late the meta­bolic ef­fects of sleep loss it­self. But in real life, some­one work­ing the night shift would be phys­i­cally and men­tally ac­tive, eat­ing and go­ing about life dur­ing the part of the day when hu­mans nor­mally sleep. In ad- di­tion, Szen­tir­mai pointed out, they would be ex­posed to ir­reg­u­lar light­ing pat­terns. And changes in light and eat­ing pat­terns may di­rectly af­fect “mus­cle protein bal­ance,” she said.

So, she noted, it’s pos­si­ble that night-shift work could add to any neg­a­tive ef­fects of sleep loss on mus­cle and fat tis­sue. What about those who sim­ply stay up late and don’t get enough sleep? Szen­tir­mai said stud­ies have shown that those peo­ple tend to gain more weight over time, and have higher risks of obe­sity, ver­sus well­rested peo­ple. But, she added, those stud­ies don’t prove cause and ef­fect.

Ced­er­naes pointed to the big­ger pic­ture: Sleep has an im­por­tant im­pact on over­all health, and peo­ple need to get enough of it. In­di­vid­u­als vary in how much sleep they need, he said. But in gen­eral, it’s rec­om­mended that adults get seven to nine hours each night.

Sleep has an im­por­tant im­pact on over­all health, and peo­ple need to get enough of it. In­di­vid­u­als vary in how much sleep they need.

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