Background: Short sleep duration is correlated with an increased risk of developing obesity and cardiovascular disease, but the mechanisms behind this relation are largely unknown.
Objective: We aimed to test the hypothesis that acute sleep loss decreases physical activity while increasing food intake, thereby shifting 2 crucial behavioral components of energy homeostasis toward weight gain.
Design: In 15 healthy, normal-weight men, spontaneous physical activity was registered by accelerometry during the entire experiment, and food intake as well as relevant hormones were assessed during a 15-h daytime period after 2 nights of regular sleep (bed time: 2245-0700) and after 2 nights of restricted sleep (bed time: 0245-0700). Experiments were performed in a crossover design.
Results: Sleep restriction significantly decreased physical activity during the daytime spent under free-living conditions after the first night of sleep manipulation (P = 0.008). Also, intensities of physical activity were shifted toward lower levels, with less time spent with intense activities (P = 0.046). Total energy intake, feelings of hunger, and appetite as well as ghrelin and leptin concentrations during day 2 remained unaffected by acute sleep restriction.
Conclusions: In contrast to our expectation, short-term sleep loss neither increased food intake nor affected concentrations of the hunger-regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin. However, the observed decrease in daytime physical activity may point to another potentially important behavioral mechanism for the health-impairing influence of sleep loss.