Researchers at the University Of Chicago are uncovering why a good night's sleep can be just as important as food or exercise in controlling our weight.
Researcher Matthew Brady and his team are the first to discover how sleep affects fat cells.
Normally, many of us would like to get rid of fat cells but Brady says our fat cells, along with insulin, actually perform the important job of storing and burning body fat and he says it is that job that becomes compromised in volunteers who got just four and a half hours of sleep at night for several days..
Matthew Brady: "we were surprised at how quickly we got such a robust effect. i mean four nights at four and a half hours in bed we kind of think is real world, i mean, you're cramming for finals, you have a big deadline, newborn in the house."
Brady says what happened to his sleep challenged college volunteers is like looking at how the body is going to work 20 years later.
Organs will work less well. People gain weight and higher sugar levels can lead to diabetic complications.
Matthew Brady: "So it can affect your vision, it can affect your kidney function, it can affect your liver function and over time it is the secondary complications that can lead to amputation, blindness and a whole host of problems."
The study shows no damage with eight hours of sleep a night. But more research is needed to discover exactly how much sleep is needed, and if long-term damage can be reversed with more sleep.
Matthew Brady: "and the question is if we can take subjects who are not sleeping well, and improve their sleep quality, improve their sleep duration... can we have a positive metabolic impact on their disease state?"