How Lack of Sleep Makes You Gain Weight

Regular readers of these pages will recall numerous posts on the profound effect of sleep deprivation on appetite and metabolism – a factor, believed by many, to be a major driver of the obesity epidemic (and not just in kids!).

Although epidemiological studies on sleep leave much to be desired both in quality and representativeness, current estimates suggest that we may be sleeping around two hours less than in the 60s.

Add to this the increase in night work, extended exposure to artificial light, and a increased eating in the late evening and night hours, and it is not hard to see how these changes would have affected our natural biology.

Enough reason for last month’s issue of Best Practices & Research Endocrinology and Metabolism to be entirely dedicated to the topic of Sleep and Metabolism.

As pointed out in the preface by Eve van Cauter and David Ehrmann from the University of Chicago, independent observations linking metabolism, sleep and circadian function include the idenfication of the orexin system which links the control of wakefulness with eating behavior, the identification of the circadian ‘Clock’ gene as conferring an increased risk of obesity and diabetes and the “sleep debt study” which showed that short term sleep restriction in healthy young adults results in decreased glucose tolerance (see previous blog entries on all of these landmark studies).

The special issue attempts to provide a comprehensive overview of this exciting field with contributions spanning from the molecular circuitry of hypothalamic pathways linking sleep and metabolism to the clinical relevance of sleep for nocturnal hypoglycemia in diabetic patients.

Readers may particularly be interested in the following articles in this issue:

Role of sleep duration in the regulation of glucose metabolism and appetite (Lisa Morselli et al.)

Sleep duration and cardiometabolic risk: A review of the epidemiologic evidence (Kristen L. Knutson)

Bariatric surgery and its impact on sleep architecture, sleep-disordered breathing, and metabolism (Silvana Pannain & Babak Mokhlesi)

The impact of sleep disturbances on adipocyte function and lipid metabolism (Josiane Broussard & Matthew J. Brady)

Sleep loss and inflammation (Janet M. Mullington, et al.)

Circadian disruption and metabolic disease: Findings from animal models (Deanna Marie Arble, et al.)

Sleep and the response to hypoglycaemia (Kamila Jauch-Chara & Bernd Schultes)

Sleep and metabolism: Role of hypothalamic neuronal circuitry (Asya Rolls, et. al.)

New evidence for a role of melatonin in glucose regulation (Elmar Peschke & Eckhard Mühlbauer)

Metabolic consequences of intermittent hypoxia: Relevance to obstructive sleep apnea (Luciano F. Drager, et al.)

I can only concur with the hopes of the editors that,

“… this volume will offer a thought provoking overview of this new area of investigation and inspire novel lines of research on the intriguing links between sleep, circadian function and metabolism and their impact on the health and well-being of billions of individuals in modern society.”

Acapulco, Mexico

Van Cauter E, & Ehrmann DA (2010). Preface. Best practice & research. Clinical endocrinology & metabolism, 24 (5) PMID: 21112018