Acute sleep deprivation increases portion size and affects food choice in young men

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Sep;38(9):1668-74. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.01.012. Epub 2013 Feb 18.


Acute sleep loss increases food intake in adults. However, little is known about the influence of acute sleep loss on portion size choice, and whether this depends on both hunger state and the type of food (snack or meal item) offered to an individual. The aim of the current study was to compare portion size choice after a night of sleep and a period of nocturnal wakefulness (a condition experienced by night-shift workers, e.g. physicians and nurses). Sixteen men (age: 23 ± 0.9 years, BMI: 23.6 ± 0.6 kg/m(2)) participated in a randomized within-subject design with two conditions, 8-h of sleep and total sleep deprivation (TSD). In the morning following sleep interventions, portion size, comprising meal and snack items, was measured using a computer-based task, in both fasted and sated state. In addition, hunger as well as plasma levels of ghrelin were measured. In the morning after TSD, subjects had increased plasma ghrelin levels (13%, p=0.04), and chose larger portions (14%, p=0.02), irrespective of the type of food, as compared to the sleep condition. Self-reported hunger was also enhanced (p<0.01). Following breakfast, sleep-deprived subjects chose larger portions of snacks (16%, p=0.02), whereas the selection of meal items did not differ between the sleep interventions (6%, p=0.13). Our results suggest that overeating in the morning after sleep loss is driven by both homeostatic and hedonic factors. Further, they show that portion size choice after sleep loss depend on both an individual's hunger status, and the type of food offered.

Trial registration: NCT01730742.

Keywords: Breakfast; Food intake; Ghrelin; Satiety; Sleep; Sleep loss.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Appetite / physiology*
  • Fasting / blood
  • Fasting / physiology
  • Fasting / psychology
  • Feeding Behavior / psychology*
  • Food Preferences / physiology
  • Food Preferences / psychology*
  • Ghrelin / blood
  • Homeostasis
  • Humans
  • Hunger / physiology*
  • Male
  • Meals
  • Pleasure
  • Polysomnography
  • Portion Size / psychology*
  • Self Report
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Sleep Deprivation / psychology*
  • Snacks
  • Wakefulness / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Ghrelin

Associated data