Metabolic consequences of chronic sleep restriction in rats: Changes in body weight regulation and energy expenditure

R. P. Barf*, G. Van Dijk, A. J. W. Scheurink, K. Hoffmann, A. Novati, H. J. Hulshof, E. Fuchs, P. Meerlo, Tifany Desprez

*Corresponding author for this work

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Epidemiological studies have shown an association between short or disrupted sleep and an increased risk to develop obesity. In animal studies, however, sleep restriction leads to an attenuation of weight gain that cannot be explained by changes in energy intake. In the present study, we assessed whether the attenuated weight gain under conditions of restricted sleep is a consequence of an overall increase in energy expenditure. Adult male rats were subjected to a schedule of chronic sleep restriction (SR) for 8 days with a 4 h window of unrestricted rest per day. Electroencephalogram and electromyogram recordings were performed to quantify the effect of the sleep restriction schedule on sleep-wake patterns. In a separate experiment, we measured sleep restriction-induced changes in body weight, food intake, and regulatory hormones such as glucose, insulin, leptin and corticosterone. To investigate whether a change in energy expenditure underlies the attenuation of weight gain, energy expenditure was measured by the doubly labeled water method from day 5 until day 8 of the SR protocol. Results show a clear attenuation of weight gain during sleep restriction but no change in food intake. Baseline plasma glucose, insulin and leptin levels are decreased after sleep restriction which presumably reflects the nutritional status of the rats. The daily energy expenditure during SR was significantly increased compared to control rats. Together, we conclude that the attenuation of body weight gain in sleep restricted rats is explained by an overall increase in energy expenditure together with an unaltered energy intake. Published by Elsevier Inc.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)322-328
JournalPhysiology & Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • Sleep deprivation
  • sleep restriction
  • sleep disturbance
  • sleep disruption
  • sleep disorders
  • EEG
  • obesity
  • body weight
  • food intake
  • metabolism
  • energy expenditure
  • energy balance
  • glucose
  • insulin
  • corticosterone

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