Researcher Matthew Brady and his team are the first to discover how sleep affects fat cells.
Normally, many of us would like to get rid of fat cells.
But Brady says our fat cells, along with insulin, actually perform the important job of storing and burning body fat.
He said it's that job that becomes compromised in volunteers who got
just four and a half hours of sleep at night for several days.
"We were surprised at how quickly we got such a robust effect. I mean
four nights at four-and-a-half hours in bed we kind of think is real
world. I mean, you're cramming for finals, you have a big deadline,
newborn in the house," Brady said.
Brady said what happened to his sleep challenged college volunteers
is like looking at how the body is going to work 20 years later.
Organs will work less well. People gain weight and higher sugar levels can lead to diabetic complications.
"So it can affect your vision. It can affect your kidney function. It
can affect your liver function and over time it is the secondary
complications that can lead to amputation, blindness and a whole host of
problems," Brady said.
The study shows no damage with eight hours of sleep a night. But more
research is needed to discover exactly how much sleep is needed, and if
long-term damage, can be reversed with more sleep.
"And the question is if we can take subjects who are not sleeping
well, and improve their sleep quality, improve their sleep duration, can
we have a positive metabolic impact on their disease state?" Brady