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Metabolic cost of human sleep deprivation quantified by University of Colorado team
Date:1/4/2011

icted to bed rest and had opportunities to walk around and perform various tasks, said Wright. Other studies have shown that sleep deprivation reduces the levels of leptin -- a hormone responsible for telling the brain that the body is satiated -- which could mean late-night snacking by "free-ranging" humans, he said.

"One question we have is why humans don't conserve more energy during sleep," he said. "We think there are multiple functions of sleep, and that some energy conserved during sleep may be redistributed to support other important physiological processes." Some energy conserved by sleep might be used for nighttime physiological activities like immune-system function, the strengthening of connections between neurons in the brain as a result of daily learning and experience, and hormone synthesis and release.

One of the health areas scientists are very interested in is how sleep loss may contribute to weight gain and obesity, said Wright. He stressed that energy expenditure during sleep deprivation is neither a safe or effective strategy for weight loss, and that other studies have shown chronic sleep deprivation is associated with impaired cognition. He said more research is needed to understand how short nighttime sleep schedules, typically six hours or less a night across many days, contribute to weight gain and obesity.

Wright said about a half dozen undergraduate research assistants helped in the study. The Sleep Research Society Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, CU-Boulder's Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program and the Bioscience Undergraduate Research Skills and Training programs of the Biological Sciences Initiative at CU-Boulder funded the study.

A 2006 study by Wright and his colleagues showed that people awakened after eight hours of sound sleep have more impaired thinking and memory skills than they do after being deprived of 24 hours of sleep.


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Contact: Kenneth Wright
kenneth.wright@colorado.edu
303-735-6409
University of Colorado at Boulder
Source:Eurekalert  

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