Rhythms of ghrelin, leptin, and sleep in rats: effects of the normal diurnal cycle, restricted feeding, and sleep deprivation

Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2004 Nov;287(5):R1071-9. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.00294.2004.


To determine the relationships among plasma ghrelin and leptin concentrations and hypothalamic ghrelin contents, and sleep, cortical brain temperature (Tcrt), and feeding, we determined these parameters in rats in three experimental conditions: in free-feeding rats with normal diurnal rhythms, in rats with feeding restricted to the 12-h light period (RF), and in rats subjected to 5-h of sleep deprivation (SD) at the beginning of the light cycle. Plasma ghrelin and leptin displayed diurnal rhythms with the ghrelin peak preceding and the leptin peak following the major daily feeding peak in hour 1 after dark onset. RF reversed the diurnal rhythm of these hormones and the rhythm of rapid-eye-movement sleep (REMS) and significantly altered the rhythm of Tcrt. In contrast, the duration and intensity of non-REMS (NREMS) were hardly responsive to RF. SD failed to change leptin concentrations, but it promptly stimulated plasma ghrelin and induced eating. SD elicited biphasic variations in the hypothalamic ghrelin contents. SD increased plasma corticosterone, but corticosterone did not seem to influence either leptin or ghrelin. The results suggest a strong relationship between feeding and the diurnal rhythm of leptin and that feeding also fundamentally modulates the diurnal rhythm of ghrelin. The variations in hypothalamic ghrelin contents might be associated with sleep-wake activity in rats, but, unlike the previous observations in humans, obvious links could not be detected between sleep and the diurnal rhythms of plasma concentrations of either ghrelin or leptin in the rat.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Corticosterone / blood
  • Electrodes, Implanted
  • Electroencephalography
  • Feeding Behavior / physiology
  • Food Deprivation / physiology*
  • Ghrelin
  • Hypothalamus / metabolism
  • Leptin / blood
  • Leptin / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Peptide Hormones / blood
  • Peptide Hormones / metabolism*
  • Polysomnography
  • Rats
  • Rats, Sprague-Dawley
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / metabolism*
  • Sleep, REM / physiology


  • Ghrelin
  • Leptin
  • Peptide Hormones
  • Corticosterone