Studies show that people suffering from chronic insomnia and those working on changes may have an increased risk of developing obesity and type 2 diabetes. Finnish scientists have examined this relationship from the point of view of metabolic mechanisms. 

Already one night of the night causes the body to store fat more intensively and cause a loss of muscle tissue.

The effect multiplies when the sleep deficit becomes chronic. Persons suffering from sleep disorders are more at risk of obesity disease, so they have an increased risk of developing so-called metabolic syndrome and developing type 2 diabetes. Sleep deficit also hinders weight reduction – people who are overweight and obese, sleeping too shortly, despite efforts to reduce body weight lose less weight than those who are falling asleep. 


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A team of Finnish scientists from the University of Uppsala under the direction of Dr. Jonathan Cedernaes conducted an experiment that aimed to decipher the metabolic mechanism of this phenomenon. The study involved 15 healthy volunteers who were to spend two nights in the sleep laboratory. During the first night, the lights were turned off at 22.30 and the subjects were to sleep by 7 am. They also spent the second night of the volunteers in bed, but they were not allowed to fall asleep by morning. In the morning, samples of muscle and subcutaneous fat were taken from them. It turned out that after a sleepless night in the muscle cells, the process of glycolysis (conversion of glucose to energy) was much less intense. The cells consumed less glucose, which led to an increase in blood levels. Instead of producing energy from glucose, the cells burned proteins from the muscles. 

The reason was probably the insomnia of glucocorticoid induction produced by the adrenal glands – after the sleepless night, the blood cortisol levels of volunteers were clearly elevated. In contrast, in fatty cells at this time there was an opposing process – excessive activation of glycolysis enzymes. The fat cells sought to use – that is, to store – the excess of glucose delivered in the blood, creating further fat stores. 

Thus, one sleepless night caused a change in metabolic processes. In the long run, this can lead to weight gain and the development of type 2 diabetes. An earlier study showed that after 5 nights with sleep shortened to 4 hours there is an increase in body weight. The meaning can also be here – due to lack of sleep – increased appetite. 

Researchers suspect that disruption of sleep and wakefulness disrupts DNA methylation, which in turn induces a switch in metabolic processes.

Methylation is a biochemical process that affects the activation (or deactivation) of genes, so that they can perform different functions. 

Researchers have also shown that methylation disorders occur in skeletal muscles to activate genes that increase the tendency to the development of inflammatory processes – chronic inflammation is one of the main factors causing atherosclerotic lesions. 

Thus, sleep deprivation, symptomatic of Western civilization, could be an explanation of the growing epidemic of obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular disease. 


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