Research/studies Shift work

Sleep loss may contribute to weight gain, help explain shift worker health problems: study

Photo: matt_benoit/iStockphoto

Uppsala, Sweden — Losing sleep, even for one night, can negatively impact metabolism and help trigger excess weight gain – possibly explaining a link between sleep deprivation and shift worker health problems – according to the results of a recent study conducted by researchers at Uppsala University.

As part of the study, 15 “normal-weight” adults completed separate lab sessions: one while sleeping for about eight hours and another involving staying awake overnight. After the sessions, the researchers took samples of fat tissue, skeletal muscle tissue and blood. Eating and activity patterns were controlled.


The researchers found that, after sleep deprivation, participants’ fat tissue showed an increased ability to store fat while blood glucose metabolism was compromised.

“Taken together, these observations may provide at least partial … insight as to why chronic sleep loss and shift work can increase the risk of adverse weight gain, as well as the risk of Type 2 diabetes,” Jonathan Cedernaes, lead author and researcher in Uppsala University’s Department of Neuroscience, said in a press release.

In 2017, Chinese and Dutch researchers found that permanent night shift workers are 29 percent more likely to be overweight or obese than those on rotating shifts. About 15 million Americans are part of the shift workforce, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.

The study was published online Aug. 22 in the journal Science Advances.

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