Research has found how a lack of sleep affects your metabolism and what happens when you try to ‘catch up’ on lost sleep

It has been known for some time that sleep disruption has harmful effects on metabolism.

Now new research from Pennsylvania State University found that just a few days of sleep deprivation can make participants feel less full after eating and metabolise the fat in food differently.

Orfeu Buxton, a professor at Penn State and one of the senior authors of the new study, contributed to a lot of the research demonstrating that long-term sleep restriction puts people at a higher risk of obesity and diabetes. However, Buxton said, most of those studies have focused on glucose metabolism, which is important for diabetes, while relatively few have assessed the digestion of lipids from food.

The study

After spending a week getting plenty of sleep at home, 15 healthy men in their 20s checked into the sleep lab for the 10-night study.

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For five nights, the participants spent no more than five hours in bed each night.

To find out how the uncomfortable schedule affected metabolism, the researchers gave participants a calorically dense, high-fat dinner, a bowl of chilli mac.

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Most participants felt less satisfied after eating the same rich meal after four nights of sleep restriction than when they had eaten it after being well rested.

Researchers compared blood samples and found that sleep restriction affected the postprandial lipid response, leading to faster clearance of lipids from the blood after a meal.

“The lipids weren’t ‘evaporating’ – they were being stored,” Buxton explained. That could predispose people to put on weight.

Trying to catch up on missed sleep

The research also looked into what happens when people try to catch up on lost sleep over the weekend.

On Friday and Saturday night during the study, participants could spend ten hours in bed catching up on missed shut-eye.

After the first night, they ate one last bowl of chilli mac. Although participants’ metabolic handling of fat from food was slightly better after a night of recovery sleep, they didn’t recover to the baseline healthy level.

The moral of the story is that if you’re watching your weight, don’t skimp on sleep.

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Source: American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology via

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