LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center have found that a lack of sleep can change a person’s fat tissue, causing it to behave more like the fat found in an obese or diabetic person.

The study, published by Annals of Internal Medicine in its Oct. 16 issue, identifies the first-ever example of an actual metabolic tissue change after sleep deprivation. The study’s first author, Josiane Broussard, PhD, says their finding challenge the notion that the primary function of sleep is to rest the brain.

“What it could mean for people who are trying to lose weight is that you may have more success if you’re getting adequate sleep,” Broussard said.

The study followed a small number of healthy adults over four days of 4.5 hours in bed and four days of 8.5 hours in bed. The subjects’ diet and level of activity were identical regardless of the amount of sleep.

Tissue samples after just four nights of too little sleep found fat tissue from otherwise healthy people resembled samples from diabetic or obese subjects. These samples were nearly 30 percent less sensitive to insulin, the hormone produced by the body to help regulate sugars.

“This eye-opening study helps cement the link between sleep and diabetes, and also suggests that adequate sleep, like diet and exercise, is one of the healthy habits we can adopt to prevent or treat diabetes,” Broussard said.