Leptin, a pleiotropic protein hormone produced mainly by fat cells, regulates metabolic activity and many other physiological functions. The intrinsic circadian rhythm of blood leptin is modulated by gender, development, feeding, fasting, sleep, obesity, and endocrine disorders. Hyperleptinemia is implicated in leptin resistance. To determine the specificity and sensitivity of leptin concentrations in sleep disorders, we summarize here the alterations of leptin in four conditions in animal and human studies: short duration of sleep, sleep fragmentation, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), and after use of continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) to treat OSA. The presence and causes of contradictory findings are discussed. Though sustained insufficient sleep lowers fasting blood leptin and therefore probably contributes to increased appetite, obesity and OSA independently result in hyperleptinemia. Successful treatment of OSA by CPAP is predicted to decrease hyperleptinemia, making leptin an ancillary biomarker for treatment efficacy. Current controversies also call for translational studies to determine how sleep disorders regulate leptin homeostasis and how the information can be used to improve sleep treatment.
Keywords: Circadian rhythm; Continuous positive airway pressure; Leptin; Obstructive sleep apnea; Sleep duration; Sleep fragmentation.
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