The important role of sleep in metabolism

Front Horm Res. 2014;42:59-72. doi: 10.1159/000358858. Epub 2014 Apr 7.


Both reduction in total sleep duration with slow-wave sleep (SWS) largely preserved and alterations of sleep quality (especially marked reduction of SWS) with preservation of total sleep duration are associated with insulin resistance without compensatory increase in insulin secretion, resulting in impaired glucose tolerance and increased risk of type 2 diabetes. When performed under rigorously controlled conditions of energy intake and physical activity, sleep restriction is also associated with a decrease in circulating levels of leptin (an anorexigenic hormone) and an increase in circulating levels of ghrelin (an orexigenic hormone), hunger and appetite. Furthermore, sleep restriction is also associated with a stimulation of brain regions sensitive to food stimuli, indicating that sleep loss may lead to obesity through the selection of high-calorie food. There is also evidence that sleep restriction could provide a permissive environment for the activation of genes that promote obesity. Indeed, the heritability of body mass index is increased in short sleepers. Thus, chronic sleep curtailment, which is on the rise in modern society, including in children, is likely to contribute to the current epidemics of type 2 diabetes and obesity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / metabolism
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology*
  • Ghrelin / blood
  • Humans
  • Insulin / blood
  • Insulin Resistance / physiology*
  • Leptin / blood
  • Obesity / metabolism
  • Sleep / physiology*


  • Ghrelin
  • Insulin
  • Leptin