Effect of the shift of the sleep-wake cycle on three robust endocrine markers of the circadian clock

Am J Physiol. 1998 Aug;275(2):E243-8. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.1998.275.2.E243.


To determine the effect of a phase shift in sleep on the circadian clock, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), cortisol, and melatonin, three robust markers of the circadian clock, were analyzed using a 10-min blood sampling procedure. In an initial experiment eight subjects were studied during two experimental sessions: once under baseline conditions with normal nighttime sleep from 2300 to 0700 (baseline) and once after a night of sleep deprivation followed by daytime sleep from 0700 to 1500 (day 1). In a second experiment, carried out on seven subjects, the 24-h hormone profiles of the first day (day 1) were compared with those of the second day (day 2) of the sleep shift. During the night of sleep deprivation (day 1) the TSH surge was higher than during baseline conditions, whereas melatonin and cortisol rhythms remained unaffected. On day 2 the amplitude of the nocturnal TSH surge was reduced in comparison to day 1, whereas the amplitudes of melatonin and cortisol rhythms were unchanged. There was a clear phase shift in the three endocrine rhythms. Triiodothyronine levels were slightly higher in the morning after the first night of sleep deprivation. These results demonstrate that 2 consecutive days of sleep shift are sufficient to affect the timing of the commonly accepted circadian markers, suggesting the existence of a rapid resetting effect on the circadian clock. TSH reacts in a distinctive manner to the sleep-wake cycle manipulation by modulating the amplitude of the nocturnal surge. This amplitude modulation is probably an integral part of the phase-shifting mechanisms controlled by the circadian clock.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / blood*
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism
  • Male
  • Melatonin / blood*
  • Melatonin / metabolism
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Thyrotropin / blood*
  • Thyrotropin / metabolism
  • Wakefulness / physiology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Thyrotropin
  • Melatonin
  • Hydrocortisone