Losing weight is already tough on its own, but some people are making the task harder on themselves with how much sleep they get on a nightly basis.
A new study from Uppsala University found that even just one night of sleep loss can have a significant impact on the tissue that affects the body’s regulation of gene expression and metabolism in humans.
The researchers studied 15 individuals who began the experiment at a healthy weight. They participated in two in-lab sessions where their daily activity and meal patterns were kept uniform. Those researched then alternated between shifts where they slept more than eight hours during one session, and were kept awake the entire night during the other. The following morning, small tissue samples were taken from the participants’ subcutaneous fat and skeletal muscle. These two tissues often exhibit disrupted metabolism in conditions such as obesity and diabetes. At the same time in the morning, blood samples were also taken and were found to comprise of sugar molecules, as well as different fatty and amino acids.
“Our research group were the first to demonstrate that acute sleep loss in and of itself results in epigenetic changes in the so-called clock genes that within each tissue regulate its circadian rhythm. Our new findings indicate that sleep loss causes tissue-specific changes to the degree of DNA methylation in genes spread throughout the human genome. Our parallel analysis of both muscle and adipose tissue further enabled us to reveal that DNA methylation is not regulated similarly in these tissues in response to acute sleep loss,” Jonathan Cedernaes, who led the study, told Science Daily.
Epidemiological studies have shown that those who suffer from chronic sleep loss, or who carry out late-night work shifts, are more likely to be at risk for obesity and type 2 diabetes. Other studies have found that disrupted sleep and adverse weight gain were directly associated. In those cases, fat accumulation increased at the same time that muscle mass reduced — a mix associated with numerous adverse health consequences. It wasn’t until this study that experts could definitively say whether sleep loss per se can cause molecular changes at the tissue level that can confer an increased risk of adverse weight gain.
Now, we know that not only is a good night’s slumber important for memory retention and focus throughout the day, but it’s also important for maintaining a healthy weight.
“It will be interesting to investigate to what extent one or more nights of recovery sleep can normalize the metabolic changes that we observe at the tissue level as a result of sleep loss. Diet and exercise are factors that can also alter DNA methylation, and these factors can thus possibly be used to counteract adverse metabolic effects of sleep loss,” Cedernaes added.
If you feel like your sleep cycle is getting in the way of your weight loss goals, contact your primary care physician. You can also simply give us a call to schedule a consultation at 410-565-6552!