Selective slow wave sleep but not rapid eye movement sleep suppression impairs morning glucose tolerance in healthy men

Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2013 Oct;38(10):2075-82. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2013.03.018. Epub 2013 Apr 17.


Shortened nocturnal sleep impairs morning glucose tolerance. The underlying mechanism of this effect is supposed to involve a reduced fraction of slow wave sleep (SWS). However, it remains unanswered if impaired glucose tolerance occurs due to specific SWS reduction or a general disturbance of sleep. Sixteen healthy men participated in three experimental conditions in a crossover design: SWS suppression, rapid eye movement (REM)-sleep disturbance, and regular sleep. Selective sleep stage disturbance was performed by means of an acoustic tone (532Hz) with gradually rising sound intensity. Blood concentrations of glucoregulatory parameters were measured upon an oral glucose tolerance test the next morning. Our data show that morning plasma glucose and serum insulin responses were significantly increased after selective SWS suppression. Moreover, SWS suppression reduced postprandial insulin sensitivity up to 20%, as determined by Matsuda Index. Contrastingly, disturbed REM-sleep did not affect glucose homeostasis. We conclude that specifically SWS reduction is critically involved in the impairment of glucose tolerance associated with disturbed sleep. Therefore, glucose metabolism in subjects predisposed to reduced SWS (e.g. depression, aging, obstructive sleep apnea, pharmacological treatment) should be thoroughly monitored.

Keywords: Glucagonl; Insulin; Matsuda-Index; OGTT.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Electroencephalography
  • Glucose / metabolism*
  • Glucose Tolerance Test
  • Health
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep / radiation effects
  • Sleep, REM / physiology*
  • Sleep, REM / radiation effects
  • Sound
  • Young Adult


  • Glucose