A lack of sleep is linked to the development of several factors in metabolic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, according to new research.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined the effects of sleep restriction – rather than sleep deprivation – in rats and humans.
The researchers found that restricted sleep changes the way that lipids are metabolised, and triggers the development of systemic oxidative stress. Both oxidative stress and lipid metabolism are major factors in the development of metabolic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and obesity.
How was the study conducted?
Over a period of five days, both rats and humans had their sleep restricted every night. The researchers chose to restrict sleep rather than deprive it altogether because “sleep restriction more closely represents real-world situations in humans and is a condition experienced by millions of people every day,” according to Amita Sehgal, professor of Neuroscience at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors.
The researchers then compared the metabolite levels of the sleep-restricted subjects to the data they collected on the same subjects when they were getting a healthier amount of sleep.
Most of the metabolites from the sleep-restricted humans were lipid or fatty acid-related compounds.
What do the findings mean?
Aalim M. Weljie, of the University of Groningen and another of the study’s authors said, “While we don’t know yet why the lipids are changed in both species, these shifts are very intriguing, given the epidemiological links between restricted sleep and metabolic disorders, such as [type 2] diabetes, obesity, and metabolomics syndrome.
“I’m sure there’s a connection.”
The research suggests that there might be a link between the effects of reduced sleep and metabolic dysfunction, including the development of type 2 diabetes and obesity.
As Sehgal explained, “This is consistent with other studies that suggests that one of the functions of sleep is restorative, involving clearance of metabolites in the brain and reinstating an antioxidant balance in peripheral tissues.
“Sleep loss, on the other hand, induces an oxidative metabolic state.”

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