Partial sleep deprivation and energy balance in adults: an emerging issue for consideration by dietetics practitioners

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2012 Nov;112(11):1785-97. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2012.07.032.


During the past 30 years, rates of partial sleep deprivation and obesity have increased in the United States. Evidence linking partial sleep deprivation, defined as sleeping <6 hours per night, to energy imbalance is relevant to weight gain prevention and weight loss promotion. With a majority of Americans overweight or obese, weight loss is a recommended strategy for reducing comorbid conditions. Our purpose was to review the literature regarding the role of partial sleep deprivation on energy balance and weight regulation. An inverse relationship between obesity and sleep duration has been demonstrated in cross-sectional and prospective studies. Several intervention studies have tested mechanisms by which partial sleep deprivation affects energy balance. Reduced sleep may disrupt appetitive hormone regulation, specifically increasing ghrelin and decreasing leptin and, thereby, influence energy intake. Increased wakefulness also may promote food intake episodes and energy imbalance. Energy expenditure may not be greatly affected by partial sleep deprivation, although additional and more accurate methods of measurements may be necessary to detect subtle changes in energy expenditure. Body weight loss achieved by reduced energy intake and/or increased energy expenditure combined with partial sleep deprivation may contribute to undesirable body composition change with proportionately more fat-free soft tissue mass lost compared with fat mass. Evaluating sleep patterns and recommending regular, sufficient sleep for individuals striving to manage weight may be prudent.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Dietetics*
  • Energy Intake / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Sleep Deprivation / metabolism
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology*
  • United States
  • Weight Gain / physiology