Background: Short sleep is associated with obesity and may alter the endocrine regulation of hunger and appetite.
Objective: We tested the hypothesis that the curtailment of human sleep could promote excessive energy intake.
Design: Eleven healthy volunteers [5 women, 6 men; mean +/- SD age: 39 +/- 5 y; mean +/- SD body mass index (in kg/m(2)): 26.5 +/- 1.5] completed in random order two 14-d stays in a sleep laboratory with ad libitum access to palatable food and 5.5-h or 8.5-h bedtimes. The primary endpoints were calories from meals and snacks consumed during each bedtime condition. Additional measures included total energy expenditure and 24-h profiles of serum leptin and ghrelin.
Results: Sleep was reduced by 122 +/- 25 min per night during the 5.5-h bedtime condition. Although meal intake remained similar (P = 0.51), sleep restriction was accompanied by increased consumption of calories from snacks (1087 +/- 541 compared with 866 +/- 365 kcal/d; P = 0.026), with higher carbohydrate content (65% compared with 61%; P = 0.04), particularly during the period from 1900 to 0700. These changes were not associated with a significant increase in energy expenditure (2526 +/- 537 and 2390 +/- 369 kcal/d during the 5.5-h and 8.5-h bedtime periods, respectively; P = 0.58), and we found no significant differences in serum leptin and ghrelin between the 2 sleep conditions.
Conclusions: Recurrent bedtime restriction can modify the amount, composition, and distribution of human food intake, and sleeping short hours in an obesity-promoting environment may facilitate the excessive consumption of energy from snacks but not meals.