Does inadequate sleep result in obesity? Interestingly enough, a recent study reveals the opposite might be true! It’s not necessarily loss of sleep that causes excessive weight, but rather, obesity may create poor sleep, thus deregulating one’s appetite, and causing an increase in consumption.
David Raizen, co-author of the study dove into the idea that sleep is a function for the body to try and conserve energy, where those levels go down once asleep. He went on to note that the team’s findings reveal that if individuals were to fast for a day, the team might predict they would get sleepy because those energies stored would be depleted.
What we do know is that acute sleep disruption can equal out to insulin resistance and an enhanced appetite, and those who get less than six hours of shut-eye nightly are likelier to be diabetic and obese. Additionally, starvation in humans (as well as fruit flies, rats, and worms), have been known to affect sleep; however, the areas in where eating and sleep work together still remains fuzzy.
To see the link, the team genetically modified worms to “turn off” a neuron connected to sleep control. They would still breathe, eat, and reproduce, but they lost any type of ability to sleep. With this, the team saw a massive decrease when it came to levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is a currency around the body’s energy.
Raizen explained that this offered a suggestion around sleep being an attempt to conserve one’s energy, not the cause of energy loss.
In past studies, a gene in worms known as KIN-20 was reviewed; homologous to a gene in humans called Salt-inducible Kinase (SIK-3), which alerts sleep pressure. When the team got ride of the KIN-29 gene and created sleepless worms, they also accumulated excess fat. The team believed that the fat store release was a way for which sleep was promoted, and reasoned that the KIN-29 could not sleep as they could not release their excess fat.
Raizen added that this could be a reason behind individuals that are obese suffer with sleep issues. With that said, limitations around the study included the fact that the findings were revealed via tests they did on worms, and this might not transfer to humans.
While much more research is needed, the study provides interesting insight on the connection between obesity and inadequate sleep, offering another viewpoint and perspective around past links within both conditions.