Health News: Even Your Fat Cells Need Sleep

Researchers have found that not getting enough shuteye has a harmful impact on fat cells, reducing their ability to respond to insulin by 30 percent.

The latest finding—published by University of Chicago researchers in the October 16 issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine—is the first description of a molecular mechanism directly connecting sleep loss to the disruption of energy regulation in humans, a process that can lead to weight gain, diabetes, and other health problems. The study suggests that sleep’s role in energy metabolism is at least as important as it is in brain function.

It took nearly three times as much insulin to provoke volunteers who had been deprived of sleep. Witnessing the direct effect of sleep deprivation on a peripheral tissue like fat at the cellular level “was an eye-opener.” It helps cement the link between sleep and diabetes and “suggests that we could use sleep like diet and exercise to prevent or treat this common disease,” said Josiane Broussard, PhD, lead auther of the study.