Intrigued by the connection between sleep and BMI, and by recent studies showing that sleep deprivation in laboratory settings can cause a decrease in serum levels of leptin, a hormone known to control appetite, Emmanuel Mignot and colleagues set out to study the levels of various hormones known to regulate appetite and energy expenditure under "real life" conditions.
They took advantage of the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, an ongoing longitudinal study of sleep habits and disorders in the general population. The study began in 1989, when researchers mailed state employees aged 3060 years a survey on sleep habits, health, and demographics. Mail surveys were repeated at 5-year intervals, and some of the respondents were recruited to sleep a night in the laboratory and undergo various tests. A number of participants were also asked to keep a sleep diary for 6 days. The study has already shown connections between sleep apnea and hypertension, and between menopause and sleep-disordered breathing.
For their study, Mignot and colleagues measured sleep duration (habitual and immediately prior to blood sampling), BMI, and pre-breakfast blood hormone levels in 1,024 participants. Consistent with previous studies, they found that in individuals who sleep less than 8 hours (74% of all participants), BMI was inversely proportional to sleep duration. In addition, short sleep was associated with low leptin and high ghrelin levels (ghrelin is a hormone thought to stimulate food intak
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