What is sleep for?

My colleagues and I are currently studying the effects of sleep disorders on – you guessed it – gut microbiota. Sleep is one of the last frontiers in the study of lifestyle-related risk factors for chronic diseases. For instance, it has been well established that smoking reduces lifespan and increases the risk of chronic inflammatory diseases and cancer. Same goes for certain diets. The opposite is true for exercise. Now we can add disrupted sleep to the list of risk factors for chronic disease and shortened lifespan. The question is, why?

We have hypothesized that gut microbiota might be involved and we are actively studying that proposition.

Meanwhile a few other groups have reported the results of trials linking sleep, circadian rhythm, and chronic inflammation in the last month:

Disruption of Circadian Clock Linked to Obesity, Diabetes and Heart Attacks.

Bright Light for Weight Loss: Results of a Controlled Crossover Trial

Effects of Experimental Sleep Restriction on Caloric Intake and Activity Energy Expenditure

Sleep is a thread that is tightly woven in the fabric of metabolism, diet, activity level, inflammation, and obesity. Teasing out the cause and effect relationships between these features is a fascinating challenge for science. Meanwhile, the function, or adaptive value of sleep remains somewhat elusive. More to come on this topic.

Just for fun:

Screen shot 2013-03-02 at 2.31.35 PM

JA

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