Resting metabolic rate varies by race and by sleep duration

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2015 Dec;23(12):2349-56. doi: 10.1002/oby.21198. Epub 2015 Nov 5.


Objective: Short sleep duration is a significant risk factor for weight gain, particularly in African Americans and men. Increased caloric intake underlies this relationship, but it remains unclear whether decreased energy expenditure is a contributory factor. The current study assessed the impact of sleep restriction and recovery sleep on energy expenditure in African American and Caucasian men and women.

Methods: Healthy adults participated in a controlled laboratory study. After two baseline sleep nights, subjects were randomized to an experimental (n = 36; 4 h sleep/night for five nights followed by one night with 12 h recovery sleep) or control condition (n = 11; 10 h sleep/night). Resting metabolic rate and respiratory quotient were measured using indirect calorimetry in the morning after overnight fasting.

Results: Resting metabolic rate-the largest component of energy expenditure-decreased after sleep restriction (-2.6%, P = 0.032) and returned to baseline levels after recovery sleep. No changes in resting metabolic rate were observed in control subjects. Relative to Caucasians (n = 14), African Americans (n = 22) exhibited comparable daily caloric intake but a lower resting metabolic rate (P = 0.043) and higher respiratory quotient (P = 0.013) regardless of sleep duration.

Conclusions: Sleep restriction decreased morning resting metabolic rate in healthy adults, suggesting that sleep loss leads to metabolic changes aimed at conserving energy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Basal Metabolism / physiology*
  • Black or African American*
  • Calorimetry, Indirect
  • Energy Intake / ethnology
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Fasting / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Racial Groups
  • Rest / physiology
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Deprivation / metabolism*
  • Weight Gain
  • White People*
  • Young Adult