Studies show that shift work and other sleep disturbances like jet lag can disrupt your body clock and increase the risks of obesity and diabetes. But, until now, researchers haven’t really been sure exactly how these changes affect the body’s metabolism.
To find out, Dr. Orfeu Buxton, an assistant professor in the division of sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, and his colleagues invited 21 men and women to participate in a study in a controlled laboratory setting, where they would have their sleep-wake cycles purposefully disrupted. Over the course of five weeks, the researchers determined when and how much the participants slept, ate and exercised. Although lab-based studies have previously examined the health effects of interferences with the body’s natural circadian rhythm, most of those trials have lasted only about a week or two.