Working night shifts and sleeping on a schedule that is out of whack with your body’s natural rhythms has been associated with obesity and type 2 diabetes. Now a new study that subjected participants to three weeks of disrupted, short sleep sessions is helping to tease out just how those problems may arise.
Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital carefully monitored 21 healthy people who lived in a laboratory where their sleep schedules were tweaked, moved from normal night-time sleeping to five-and-a-half-hour spurts of sleep, spread out at all times of day and night. In the study, published Wednesday in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the scientists reported that the disrupted schedules altered insulin levels and sent three people into a pre-diabetic state. The irregular, restricted sleep schedule also slowed metabolism to a rate that, if sustained over an entire year with no other changes in the person’s routine and diet, would amount to more than 12 pounds of weight gain.