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Short sleep duration and dietary intake: epidemiologic evidence, mechanisms, and health implications.

  • Dashti, Hassan S1
  • Scheer, Frank Ajl2
  • Jacques, Paul F3
  • Lamon-Fava, Stefania4
  • Ordovás, José M5
  • 1 Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory, [email protected]
  • 2 Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, MA; Division of Sleep Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, MA;
  • 3 Nutritional Epidemiology Laboratory, and.
  • 4 Cardiovascular Nutrition Laboratory, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston, MA;
  • 5 Nutrition and Genomics Laboratory, Department of Epidemiology, National Center for Cardiovascular Research, Madrid, Spain; Madrid Institutes of Advanced Research, Madrid, Spain. , (Spain)
Published Article
Advances in nutrition (Bethesda, Md.)
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2015
DOI: 10.3945/an.115.008623
PMID: 26567190


Links between short sleep duration and obesity, type 2 diabetes, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease may be mediated through changes in dietary intake. This review provides an overview of recent epidemiologic studies on the relations between habitual short sleep duration and dietary intake in adults from 16 cross-sectional studies. The studies have observed consistent associations between short sleep duration and higher total energy intake and higher total fat intake, and limited evidence for lower fruit intake, and lower quality diets. Evidence also suggests that short sleepers may have irregular eating behavior deviating from the traditional 3 meals/d to fewer main meals and more frequent, smaller, energy-dense, and highly palatable snacks at night. Although the impact of short sleep duration on dietary intake tends to be small, if chronic, it may contribute to an increased risk of obesity and related chronic disease. Mechanisms mediating the associations between sleep duration and dietary intake are likely to be multifactorial and include differences in the appetite-related hormones leptin and ghrelin, hedonic pathways, extended hours for intake, and altered time of intake. Taking into account these epidemiologic relations and the evidence for causal relations between sleep loss and metabolism and cardiovascular function, health promotion strategies should emphasize improved sleep as an additional factor in health and weight management. Moreover, future sleep interventions in controlled studies and sleep extension trials in chronic short sleepers are imperative for establishing whether there is a causal relation between short sleep duration and changes in dietary intake.

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