Changes in Plasma Lipids during Exposure to Total Sleep Deprivation

Sleep. 2015 Nov 1;38(11):1683-91. doi: 10.5665/sleep.5142.


Study objectives: The effects of sleep loss on plasma lipids, which play an important role in energy homeostasis and signaling, have not been systematically examined. Our aim was to identify lipid species in plasma that increase or decrease reliably during exposure to total sleep deprivation.

Design: Twenty individuals underwent sleep deprivation in a laboratory setting. Blood was drawn every 4 h and mass spectrometry techniques were used to analyze concentrations of 263 lipid species in plasma, including glycerolipids, glycerophospholipids, sphingolipids, and sterols.

Setting: Chronobiology and Sleep Laboratory, Duke-NUS Graduate Medical School.

Participants: Healthy ethnic-Chinese males aged 21-28 y (n = 20).

Interventions: Subjects were kept awake for 40 consecutive hours.

Measurements and results: Each metabolite time series was modeled as a sum of sinusoidal (circadian) and linear components, and we assessed whether the slope of the linear component differed from zero. More than a third of all individually analyzed lipid profiles exhibited a circadian rhythm and/or a linear change in concentration during sleep deprivation. Twenty-five lipid species showed a linear and predominantly unidirectional trend in concentration levels that was consistent across participants. Choline plasmalogen levels decreased, whereas several phosphatidylcholine (PC) species and triacylglycerides (TAG) carrying polyunsaturated fatty acids increased.

Conclusions: The decrease in choline plasmalogen levels during sleep deprivation is consistent with prior work demonstrating that these lipids are susceptible to degradation by oxidative stress. The increase in phosphatidylcholines and triacylglycerides suggests that sleep loss might modulate lipid metabolism, which has potential implications for metabolic health in individuals who do not achieve adequate sleep.

Keywords: circadian; lipids; metabolism; sleep deprivation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Asian Continental Ancestry Group
  • China / ethnology
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / blood
  • Humans
  • Lipid Metabolism
  • Lipids / blood*
  • Male
  • Oxidative Stress
  • Phosphatidylcholines / blood
  • Plasmalogens / blood
  • Sleep
  • Sleep Deprivation / blood*
  • Sleep Deprivation / metabolism
  • Triglycerides / blood
  • Wakefulness
  • Young Adult


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Lipids
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Plasmalogens
  • Triglycerides
  • choline plasmalogens