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In a new study, carried out by researchers at Uppsala University, we have found out that only one night of sleep loss has a severe impact on the regulation of gene expression and metabolism in humans.

Scientists have therefore concluded that sleep deprivation and sleep loss may lead to adverse weight gain.

In their newest study, researchers at the Uppsala University were specifically focused on answering the question of how sleep loss affects our metabolism and impairs our body composition. The results of the study were published in the journal Science Advances on August 23, 2018.

Links between Sleep Loss and Obesity

Epidemiological studies conducted in the last few years have shown a clear link between sleep loss and obesity. Multiple studies concluded that the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes is higher in those who have chronic insomnia or do shift work.

Other studies have found a link between disrupted sleep and weight gain, and what’s specific in those studies is while fat accumulation is increased, at the same time, the muscle mass is reduced.

Researchers from Uppsala in their earlier studies have found out that metabolic functions regulated by skeletal muscle and adipose tissue are severely affected by disrupted sleep and disturbed circadian rhythms. However, before this study, it was unclear whether or not sleep loss can lead to molecular changes at the tissue level that later lead to weight gain.

Sleep Loss and Adverse Weight Gain

In this new research, scientists have chosen to study 15 healthy normal-weight individuals. These participants took part in two lab studies, and during both of them, their meals were highly standardized.

During the first lab session, the group slept over eight hours in a randomized order, while during the other session some participants were kept awake during the entire night.

Each morning, small tissue samples were taken from their subcutaneous fat and skeletal muscle. The researchers have chosen to take samples from the subcutaneous fat and skeletal muscles because this is where disrupted metabolism in serious health conditions such as diabetes and obesity is often observed. Blood samples were also taken to inspect metabolites, such as sugar molecules, different fatty and amino acids, and similar.

The results have shown that sleep loss and sleep deprivation causes tissue-specific changes in DNA methylation. Methylation is one of the mechanisms vital for regulating gene expression, or simply explained, a mechanism that affects how the genes of each cell in the body are turned on or off. These genes can be impacted by different factors, such as hereditary factors, but also by environmental factors such as regular exercise and a healthy diet.

The scientists have only studied the effect of one of sleep loss, therefore they cannot make suggestions or conclude how other forms of sleep disruption and circadian misalignment may affect the participants’ tissue metabolism.

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