Role of sleep and circadian disruption on energy expenditure and in metabolic predisposition to human obesity and metabolic disease

Authors

  • A. W. McHill,

    Corresponding author
    1. Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA, USA
    • Address for correspondence: Dr AW McHill, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

      E-mail: amchill@bwh.harvard.edu

      Dr KP Wright Jr, Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0354, USA.

      E-mail: kenneth.wright@colorado.edu

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  • K. P. Wright Jr

    Corresponding author
    1. Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO, USA
    • Address for correspondence: Dr AW McHill, Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Department of Medicine, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA 02115, USA.

      E-mail: amchill@bwh.harvard.edu

      Dr KP Wright Jr, Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory, Department of Integrative Physiology, University of Colorado Boulder, Boulder, CO 80309-0354, USA.

      E-mail: kenneth.wright@colorado.edu

    Search for more papers by this author

Summary

Weight gain, obesity and diabetes have reached alarming levels in the developed world. Traditional risk factors such as over-eating, poor nutritional choices and lack of exercise cannot fully account for the high prevalence of metabolic disease. This review paper examines the scientific evidence on two novel risk factors that contribute to dys-regulated metabolic physiology: sleep disruption and circadian misalignment. Specifically, fundamental relationships between energy metabolism and sleep and circadian rhythms and the impact of sleep and circadian disruption on metabolic physiology are examined. Millions of individuals worldwide do not obtain sufficient sleep for healthy metabolic function, and many participate in shift work and social activities at times when the internal physiological clock is promoting sleep. These behaviours predispose an individual for poor metabolic health by promoting excess caloric intake in response to reduced sleep, food intake at internal biological times when metabolic physiology is not prepared, decreased energy expenditure when wakefulness and sleep are initiated at incorrect internal biological times, and disrupted glucose metabolism during short sleep and circadian misalignment. In addition to the traditional risk factors of poor diet and exercise, disturbed sleep and circadian rhythms represent modifiable risk factors for prevention and treatment of metabolic disease and for promotion of healthy metabolism.

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