When it comes to studying the causes of weight gain and obesity, nutrition researchers rightly focus on the interaction between diet and exercise. They’re just starting to understand the influence of an activity that humans engage in for a third of their lives—sleep.
A growing body of research over the past few years has found that lack of sleep is closely associated with weight gain. “At this point, the relationship between sleep and obesity has been well-established,” says Hassan Dashti, N15, who was lead author of research papers on the topic. The question is, why?
“It could be related to increased intake or lack of physical activity,” says Dashti, who received his Ph.D. from Tufts in 2015 and is a dietetic intern at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. “And if we find that it is related to intake, then we need to find out what types of food people are eating more of, and whether they are engaging in specific dietary behaviors.”