Sleep Deprivation And Irregular Sleep Patterns 'Increase Obesity And Diabetes Risk'

Irregular sleep patterns or lack of shut-eye could be behind those stubborn pounds you've mysteriously piled on – as lack of sleep increases the risk of diabetes and obesity, scientists warn.

Researchers from Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston have discovered people who have less than five and a half hours sleep a night - or those with imbalanced sleep patterns - are at higher risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome.

The research team enlisted the help of 21 healthy volunteers and monitored how their body reacted to sudden changes in sleeping patterns.

For 21 days before the experiment began, the volunteers slept normally (10 hours a night).

Then when the 35-day trial kicked off, each person was asked to spend 16 hours each day in bed for five days, with no limitation on the amount of sleep they wished to have. They were then instructed to spend a further 21 days having the maximum of 5.6 hours of sleep within a 24-hour period.

Finally, for the last nine days of the study, participants underwent a ‘circadian re-entertainment’ process which involved them sleeping for 10 hours a night, going to bed at the same time each evening.

During the study, researchers monitored the volunteers metabolic and body weight, as well as insulin levels and metabolic responses.

Researchers found that participants’ metabolic rate dropped (on average) by 8%, which means that each participant was at danger of gaining around 10 pounds to a stone in weight over a year as a result.

The study discovered that when the body’s natural circadian rhythms (the ‘internal body clock’ that controls energy levels and appetite) are disrupted by sleep deprivation or varying sleep patterns, this triggers poor glucose regulation and metabolism. Both of these increase the risk of diabetes and obesity.

Highlighting previous evidence between shift workers irregular sleep patterns and weight-gain to back-up their findings, Orfeu Buxton from the study, told the Science Translational Medicine journal:

“Since night workers often have a hard time sleeping during the day, they can face both circadian disruption working at night and insufficient sleep during the day.

“The evidence is clear that getting enough sleep is important for health, and that sleep should be at night for best effect."

These findings follow a previous study by scientists at Yale University, who discovered a link between our sleep patterns and the gene that controls the immune system.

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