Short sleep duration and circadian misalignment are hypothesized to causally contribute to health problems including obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, heart disease, mood disorders, cognitive impairment, and accidents. Here, we investigated the influence of morning circadian misalignment induced by an imposed short nighttime sleep schedule on impaired insulin sensitivity, a precursor to diabetes. Imposed short sleep duration resulted in morning wakefulness occurring during the biological night (i.e., circadian misalignment)-a time when endogenous melatonin levels were still high indicating the internal circadian clock was still promoting sleep and related functions. We show the longer melatonin levels remained high after wake time, insulin sensitivity worsened. Overall, we find a simulated 5-day work week of 5-hr-per-night sleep opportunities and ad libitum food intake resulted in ∼20% reduced oral and intravenous insulin sensitivity in otherwise healthy men and women. Reduced insulin sensitivity was compensated by an increased insulin response to glucose, which may reflect an initial physiological adaptation to maintain normal blood sugar levels during sleep loss. Furthermore, we find that transitioning from the imposed short sleep schedule to 9-hr sleep opportunities for 3 days restored oral insulin sensitivity to baseline, but 5 days with 9-hr sleep opportunities was insufficient to restore intravenous insulin sensitivity to baseline. These findings indicate morning wakefulness and eating during the biological night is a novel mechanism by which short sleep duration contributes to metabolic dysregulation and suggests food intake during the biological night may contribute to other health problems associated with short sleep duration.
Keywords: sleep restriction.
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