A growing amount of research has suggested that people may be genetically disposed to gaining weight. Now, a new body of research is pointing to sleep as being the key factor in influencing this gene activity, adding more weight to the hypothesis that more sleep can benefit our waistline.
The new evidence comes among several other studies that have connected sleep with weight. The evidence suggests that those who get around nine or more hours sleep a night are less likely to put weight on, with those who sleep under seven hours more likely to increase their waistline.
Researchers from the University of Washington Medicine Sleep Centre studied over 1,000 pairs of twins to make the discovery. Twins are often used in scientific experimentation because they share the same genes, or in some cases share most of the same genes. This allows connections to be made between gene activities and life activities, such as the amount of time they sleep.
They found that the participants who reported they slept the least had an increased risk for having an elevated BMI (body mass index). Additionally, they found that gene activity increased in those who got less sleep, playing more than twice as large a role in determining their BMI than those who were getting nine or more hours of sleep each night.
"The results suggest that shorter sleep provides a more permissive environment for the expression of obesity related genes," study leader Dr Nathaniel Watson said in a statement.
"Or it may be that extended sleep is protective by suppressing expression of obesity genes."
Further research is now needed to determine precisely which genes affect our weight, with early indications pointing to the genes that govern glucose metabolism as playing a predominant role. Additionally, genes affecting energy use, fatty acid storage and satiety are also likely to play a role.
Posted by Elizabeth Mewes