Short-term sleep curtailment associated with activation of the stress system in healthy, young adults has been shown to be associated with decreased leptin levels, impaired insulin sensitivity, and increased hunger and appetite. To assess the effects of one night of sleep loss in a less stressful environment on hunger, leptin, adiponectin, cortisol and blood pressure/heart rate, and whether a 2-h mid-afternoon nap reverses the changes associated with sleep loss, 21 young healthy individuals (10 men, 11 women) participated in a 7-day sleep deprivation experiment (four consecutive nights followed by one night of sleep loss and two recovery nights). Half of the subjects were randomly assigned to take a mid-afternoon nap (14:00-16:00 hours) the day following the night of total sleep loss. Serial 24-h blood sampling and hunger scales were completed on the fourth (predeprivation) and sixth day (postdeprivation). Leptin levels were significantly increased after one night of total sleep loss, whereas adiponectin, cortisol levels, blood pressure/heart rate, and hunger were not affected. Daytime napping did not influence the effects of sleep loss on leptin, adiponectin, or hunger. Acute sleep loss, in a less stressful environment, influences leptin levels in an opposite manner from that of short-term sleep curtailment associated with activation of the stress system. It appears that sleep loss associated with activation of the stress system but not sleep loss per se may lead to increased hunger and appetite and hormonal changes, which ultimately may lead to increased consumption of 'comfort' food and obesity.
© 2010 European Sleep Research Society.