A recent study published in The FASEB Journal looked at impairments to the Rev-Erb alpha gene, which is known to be responsible for our internal body clocks. The researchers found that this can lead to excessive weight gain and other related health issues, such as diabetes. This suggests that your risk of weight gain increases if your body’s internal timing and external light cycles aren’t in sync.
How was the study done?
Researchers at the University of Strasbourg in Pascal, France studied two groups of mice - one was normal and the other lacked the Rev-Erb alpha gene. They found that the mice lacking the gene not only became obese and hyperglycemic even if they ate the same quantity of food at the same time as the other mice, but that they also metabolized food differently. The mice lacking the gene created significantly more fat, specifically during the feeding period, than the normal mice, and also burned up fewer carbs when at rest.
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What do the findings mean?
According to the Journal, the findings suggest that humans evolved to live in alignment with the natural cycles of light and dark on our planet. Also, researchers said that changes in daily rhythms, such as shift-work, artificial lighting or jet lag can have far-reaching effects on health, so we should be very conscious of maintaining or restoring our sleep rhythm with natural light cycles. Avoiding late night meals and frequent light exposure at night can help stave off weight gain.
What does this mean for maintaining a healthy weight?
This study suggests that sleep may be just as important as diet and exercise in maintaining a healthy weight, or losing weight. And minimizing disruptions in circadian rhythm, such as bright light in your bedroom when you’re trying to sleep at night or a frequently altered sleep schedule, can minimize your risk of developing weigh-related problems such as diabetes and obesity.
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How do computers and other LCD screens affect sleep?
Another factor to consider is the blue light being emitted from our TVs, laptops, smart phones and ipads. A John’s Hopkins article published in 2010 explains that blue light keeps us alert and stimulated, and as we use these devices later into the night, it causes sleep problems such as insomnia. Keeping these blue light devices out of the bedroom and consciously not using them before bedtime would help people get back on track with their sleep schedule.
What are some other ways to minimize sleep disruptions?