Short sleep duration increases energy intakes but does not change energy expenditure in normal-weight individuals

Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Aug;94(2):410-6. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.111.013904. Epub 2011 Jun 29.


Background: Evidence suggests a relation between short sleep duration and obesity.

Objective: We assessed energy balance during periods of short and habitual sleep in normal-weight men and women.

Design: Fifteen men and 15 women aged 30-49 y with a body mass index (in kg/m(2)) of 22-26, who regularly slept 7-9 h/night, were recruited to participate in this crossover inpatient study. All participants were studied under short (4 h/night) and habitual (9 h/night) sleep conditions, in random order, for 5 nights each. Food intake was measured on day 5, and energy expenditure was measured with the doubly labeled water method over each period.

Results: Participants consumed more energy on day 5 during short sleep (2813.6 ± 593.0 kcal) than during habitual sleep (2517.7 ± 593.0 kcal; P = 0.023). This effect was mostly due to increased consumption of fat (20.7 ± 37.4 g; P = 0.01), notably saturated fat (8.7 ± 20.4 g; P = 0.038), during short sleep. Resting metabolic rate (short sleep: 1455.4 ± 129.0 kcal/d; habitual sleep: 1486.5 ± 129.5 kcal/d; P = 0.136) and total energy expenditure (short sleep: 2589.2 ± 526.5 kcal/d; habitual sleep: 2611.1 ± 529.0 kcal/d; P = 0.832) did not differ significantly between sleep phases.

Conclusions: Our data show that a reduction in sleep increases energy and fat intakes, which may explain the associations observed between sleep and obesity. If sustained, as observed, and not compensated by increased energy expenditure, the dietary intakes of individuals undergoing short sleep predispose to obesity. This trial is registered at as NCT00935402.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Energy Intake*
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Sleep*
  • Time Factors

Associated data