A new study conducted by researchers at the Pennsylvania State University has suggested that just four nights of poor sleep could cause weight gain.


The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends between seven and nine hours of sleep every night for adults while medical experts have approved about 8 to 9 and 9 to 11 hours for teenagers and school age children (6 to 13 years) respectively.

Insufficient sleep could increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and even cancer, but researchers could not figure out the underlying mechanisms that were responsible for this.

However, the new study, whose findings are published in the Journal of Lipid Research, discovered that getting anything short of the recommend amount of sleep could heighten obesity risk by changing the way the body stores fat.


The researchers recruited 15 healthy male participants in their 20s and made them spend a week getting 10 hours of sleep per night at home. They, thereafter, spent ten nights at the Clinical Research Center at Penn State.

For the duration of the nights spent in the laboratory, the participants were given high-fat, calorie-dense dinner of chili and pasta. Then, they were also made to get nothing more than five hours of night sleep for four consecutive days.

Thereafter, the men’s blood samples were examined and the research team found that the sleep deprivation to which they were subjected spiked their levels of insulin, a hormone needed to get glucose into cells.


This, the research team stated, leads to their body being made to take fats from meals more quickly and then store them in a manner that causes them to gain weight.

A further examination of the study participants also revealed that those who were given a high-calorie meal felt less satiated after eating it and felt more sleep deprived than when they were made to eat the same meal well-rested.

Eating rich meals after lack of sleep, the researcher further ruled, could lead to higher levels of insulin in the body and faster metabolism of fats from meals which then leads to weight gain and heighten obesity risk in the longrun.

“Across a lifetime of exposure to short sleep, this could increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, or other metabolic diseases,” said Kelly Ness, lead author and a former graduate student at Penn State.


According to the research team, more outreach is needed from doctors and policymakers so people can be enlightened about the dangers of poor sleep habits as the study explains why lack of sleep is harmful.

“The problem in obesity is how fat tissue functions to store energy. By storing fats quickly, fat tissues shift fuel utilization away from fats and prioritize the use of sugars for fuel. Here we show evidence that sleep restriction exaggerates this process,” said Greg Shearer, co-author and professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State.

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