The findings of a study presented at the SLEEP 2011 Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies revealed that getting less shut-eye at night might increase the expression of genetic risks for obesity. According to an article published by ScienceDaily, the study examined 1,811 sets of twins with an average age of 37 years old. Data on the participants’ height, weight and typical sleep duration were gathered by survey. The participants had an average body mass index (BMI) of 25.4, which is categorized as slightly overweight, and their average length of sleep each night was seven hours and 11 minutes.
Overall, the findings revealed that lower BMI was associated with longer stretches of sleep at night. The researchers found that heritability of sleep duration was 32 percent. One of the most noteworthy findings was that the heritability of BMI when participants slept for 7 hours straight was more than twice as large as the heritability of BMI when participants slept nine hours straight.
The findings led the study authors to conclude that there is something about inadequate sleep duration that seems to facilitate the expression of genes involved in regulating body size. Taking into consideration the effects that sleep duration have on obesity-related genes may be beneficial in identifying specific genotypes for BMI in future research endeavors.
Dr. Emma Patterson of Oregon Weight Loss Surgery commented, “There is a wealth of literature supporting the importance of sleep in maintaining a healthy weight and the association of short sleep with obesity. This twin study takes this a step further and shows that short sleep facilitates the expression of obesity-related genes. This is really exciting, as sleep duration should be largely under a person’s individual control, and therefore is potentially a modifiable risk factor for obesity.”