Multidimensional role of sleep and circadian rhythm in lifestyle exposures in the development of age-related diseases
When compared to our ancestors, our habitual lifestyle in terms of sleep and circadian rhythm in lifestyle factors (e.g., timing of physical activity and nutrition) has significantly changed. Sleep and circadian rhythm in lifestyle factors have increasingly recognized as important risk factors for the development of age-related diseases. For example, there are a number of studies that have shown that individuals with a short sleep duration (usually less than 6 or 7 hours of nightly sleep) have a higher risk for the development of myocardial infarction, diabetes mellitus type 2 and dementia. However, importantly, the aspects of sleep and circadian rhythm are all interrelated and it is therefore difficult to point to specific aspects that affect disease outcomes (and therefore are considered as important for interventions). For example, this group of short sleepers consists of people that either have a worse as well as good sleep quality and will therefore obscure the observed relationships. In addition, there have been increasing insights that the timing of certain lifestyle factors (e.g., physical activity and nutrition) are important as well, irrespective of the overall intensity or caloric intake. However, these aspects are yet poorly understood and need a more detailed examination using the data that has recently become available in the UK Biobank.
Within this 3-year project in UK Biobank, we will conduct several projects to address the fundamental question what specific aspects of sleep and circadian rhythm in lifestyle factors affect the risk of age-related diseases. By performing more comprehensive mathematical modeling on the data in combination with epidemiological data analyses, we will identify which aspects are important and which not. Using the large genomics datasets from UK Biobank, we will further work on the biological mechanisms underlying these aspects and will analyse whether the links with age-related diseases are causal.
Collectively, these studies will identify the specific aspects of sleep and circadian rhythm in lifestyle factors in the onset of disease. These studies are expected to provide significant novel insights that can be further validated in intervention studies.