Sleep loss linked to a higher likelihood of obesity

A study published in the journal Science Advances showed that lack of sleep and disruption of circadian rhythms may promote weight gain and sarcopenia. In the study, the researchers sought to determine the genomic and physiological impact of acute sleep loss in peripheral tissues.

  • An international team of researchers recruited 15 healthy, normal-weight individuals.
  • The individuals participated in two in-lab sessions in which activity and meal patterns were highly standardized. During one session, the participants slept normally for one night, then stayed awake all night during the other session.
  • After each night-time intervention, the researchers obtained small tissue samples from the participants’ subcutaneous fat and skeletal muscle – which often exhibit disrupted metabolism in conditions such as obesity and diabetes.
  • They also took blood samples from the participants to compare tissues of several metabolites that comprise sugar molecules, fatty acids, and amino acids.
  • The researchers found that in adipose tissue, acute sleep loss changed DNA methylation, a mechanism that regulates gene expression. Moreover, sleep loss increased levels of metabolites that are involved in the process of fat storage.
  • They observed signatures of increased inflammation across tissues in response to sleep loss, but changes involving the circadian clock were evident only in skeletal muscle.
  • They also discovered molecular signatures suggestive of muscle breakdown that attempted to increase its capacity to store fat subsequent to sleep loss. In addition, the researchers found changes in skeletal muscle levels of proteins involved in glucose regulation, which could explain why glucose sensitivity was impaired after sleep loss.

These findings provide insight into how sleep and circadian rhythm disruptions may promote weight gain and muscle loss.

Read the full text of the study at this link.

To read more studies on how sleep loss affects one’s health, visit

Journal Reference:

Cedernaes J, Schonke M, Westholm JO, Mi J, Chibalin A, Voisin S, Osler M, Vogel H, Hornaeus K, Dickson SL, et al. ACUTE SLEEP LOSS RESULTS IN TISSUE-SPECIFIC ALTERATIONS IN GENOME-WIDE DNA METHYLATION STATE AND METABOLIC FUEL UTILIZATION IN HUMANS. Science Advances. 22 August 2018;4(8). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aar8590





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