Can Just One Night Of Poor Sleep Disrupt Your Metabolism? Here's What The Science Says

mbg Associate Health Editor By Darcy McDonough, M.S.
mbg Associate Health Editor
Darcy is the associate health editor. She has a master’s degree in nutrition interventions, communication, and behavior change from the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

Photo by Milles Studio

We all know that getting a good night's sleep is important. It helps your body recover, keeps your brain sharp, and improves your immune system. Sleep is even considered the foundation of good health. But one sleepless night can't hurt, right? New research from Uppsala University found that, actually, a single night of sleep loss can contribute to metabolic changes that cause weight gain and chronic disease—yikes.

In the study, tissue and blood samples were taken from healthy normal-weight adults before and after a night of good sleep (eight hours) and a night of no sleep. Researchers observed increased inflammation and multiple adverse changes at the molecular level in response to the sleepless night. Specifically, they found changes in DNA methylation, which is how the body turns genes on and off. Interestingly, they discovered that the genes responsible for adipose fat tissue cells were affected differently than those of skeletal muscle tissue.

After the night of no sleep, the genes responsible for increasing the capacity for stored fat were turned on, promoting weight gain, while skeletal muscle tissues showed signs of breaking down, suggesting these genes may have been turned off. This combination can lead to a high-fat, low-muscle-mass body composition, a risk factor for many chronic diseases. Also, individuals had impaired blood glucose sensitivity the morning after their sleepless night. These metabolic changes mirror those often seen in patients with obesity and type 2 diabetes. In other words, just one sleepless night can impair your metabolism and may initiate the early signs of chronic disease.

Past research has shown that chronic sleep loss can increase the risk for metabolic syndrome, cancer, and other chronic diseases, but this is the first to show that these changes begin to occur after just one night. In addition, this study provides insight into how these changes begin to take place.

It is important to note that this was a small study that looked at only two nights of sleep. Further research is needed to understand whether these metabolic changes can be reversed with subsequent nights of good sleep or other lifestyle factors like diet and exercise. Either way, you won't catch us pulling an all-nighter anytime soon.

Suffering from insomnia? Try the all-natural remedy this doctor always recommends.

And are you ready to learn more about how to unlock the power of food to heal your body, prevent disease & achieve optimal health? Register now for our FREE web class with nutrition expert Kelly LeVeque.

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