Recent increases in the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) in modern societies have been paralleled by reductions in the time their denizens spend asleep. Epidemiological studies have shown that disturbed sleep-comprising short, low-quality, and mistimed sleep-increases the risk of metabolic diseases, especially obesity and T2DM. Supporting a causal role of disturbed sleep, experimental animal and human studies have found that sleep loss can impair metabolic control and body weight regulation. Possible mechanisms for the observed changes comprise sleep loss-induced changes in appetite-signaling hormones (e.g., higher levels of the hunger-promoting hormone ghrelin) or hedonic brain responses, altered responses of peripheral tissues to metabolic signals, and changes in energy intake and expenditure. Even though the overall consensus is that sleep loss leads to metabolic perturbations promoting the development of obesity and T2DM, experimental evidence supporting the validity of this view has been inconsistent. This Perspective aims at discussing molecular to behavioral factors through which short, low-quality, and mistimed sleep may threaten metabolic public health. In this context, possible factors that may determine the extent to which poor sleep patterns increase the risk of metabolic pathologies within and across generations will be discussed (e.g., timing and genetics).
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