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Study Published in Annals of Internal Medicine Finds That Sleep Deprivation -- Even for a Short Time -- Has a Direct and Harmful Effect on Fat Cells, an Effect That Could Lead to Major Health Issues Such as Obesity or Type 2 Diabetes

PHILADELPHIA, PA -- (Marketwire) -- 10/15/12 -- A first-of-its-kind study finds that your fat cells need sleep as much as your brain does. A report published in Annals of Internal Medicine, the flagship journal of the American College of Physicians found that sleep deprivation -- even for a short time -- has a direct and harmful effect on fat cells. An effect that could lead to major health issues such as obesity or type 2 diabetes.

Researchers found that after four nights of sleep restriction, the fat cells of lean, healthy young adults had a 30 percent reduction in their ability to respond to insulin, taking their fat cell functioning down to that of an obese or diabetic patient.

The findings are considered significant because of the observed changes in the participants' fat cell functioning after just four nights of restricted sleep. This is alarming, as sleeping as little as four or five hours a night during the work week is not uncommon and over time, this kind of sleep restriction can lead to obesity, diabetes, and other metabolic issues.

While fat cells may be seen as a problem in this era of obesity they do serve a vital function. Tissue with fat cells store and release energy. In storage mode, fat cells remove fatty acids and lipids from the circulation where they can damage other tissues. When fat cells cannot respond effectively to insulin, these lipids leach out into the circulation, leading to serious complications.

The study was conducted at the University of Chicago's sleep lab where the fat cells of seven lean, healthy participants were tested for insulin response after four nights of 8.5 hours of sleep and then after four nights of 4.5 hours of sleep.

Researchers suggest that the study shows that getting adequate sleep may be as important as diet and exercise for preventing metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity. Their findings suggest that a good night's sleep is crucial to maintaining not only a healthy mind, but a healthy body as well.

For more information, please visit www.annals.org

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Angela C. Collom
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American College of Physicians
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