Elevated ghrelin predicts food intake during experimental sleep restriction

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2016 Jan;24(1):132-8. doi: 10.1002/oby.21321. Epub 2015 Oct 15.


Objective: Sleep curtailment has been linked to obesity, but underlying mechanisms remain to be elucidated. This study assessed whether sleep restriction alters 24-h profiles of appetite-regulating hormones ghrelin, leptin, and pancreatic polypeptide during a standardized diet and whether these hormonal alterations predict food intake during ad libitum feeding.

Methods: Nineteen healthy, lean men were studied under normal sleep and sleep restriction in a randomized crossover design. Blood samples were collected for 24 h during standardized meals. Subsequently, participants had an ad libitum feeding opportunity (buffet meals and snacks) and caloric intake was measured.

Results: Ghrelin levels were increased after sleep restriction as compared with normal sleep (P < 0.01). Overall, sleep restriction did not alter leptin or pancreatic polypeptide profiles. Sleep restriction was associated with an increase in total calories from snacks by 328 ± 140 kcal (P = 0.03), primarily from carbohydrates (P = 0.02). The increase in evening ghrelin during sleep restriction was correlated with higher consumption of calories from sweets (r = 0.48, P = 0.04).

Conclusions: Sleep restriction as compared with normal sleep significantly increases ghrelin levels. The increase in ghrelin is associated with higher consumption of calories. Elevated ghrelin may be a mechanism by which sleep loss leads to increased food intake and the development of obesity.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Appetite / physiology
  • Diet
  • Eating / physiology*
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Ghrelin / blood*
  • Humans
  • Leptin / blood
  • Male
  • Obesity / blood
  • Obesity / etiology
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Deprivation / blood*
  • Sleep Deprivation / complications
  • Sleep Deprivation / physiopathology
  • Young Adult


  • Ghrelin
  • Leptin