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Sleep, circadian rhythm and body weight: parallel developments

  • Margriet S. Westerterp-Plantenga (a1)

Circadian alignment is crucial for body-weight management, and for metabolic health. In this context, circadian alignment consists of alignment of sleep, meal patterns and physical activity. During puberty a significant reduction in sleep duration occurs, and pubertal status is inversely associated with sleep duration. A consistent inverse association between habitual sleep duration and body-weight development occurs, independent of possible confounders. Research on misalignment reveals that circadian misalignment affects sleep-architecture and subsequently disturbs glucose–insulin metabolism, substrate oxidation, leptin- and ghrelin concentrations, appetite, food reward, hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal-axis activity and gut-peptide concentrations enhancing positive energy balance and metabolic disturbance. Not only aligning meals and sleep in a circadian way is crucial, also regular physical activity during the day strongly promotes the stability and amplitude of circadian rhythm, and thus may serve as an instrument to restore poor circadian rhythms. Endogenicity may play a role in interaction of these environmental variables with a genetic predisposition. In conclusion, notwithstanding the separate favourable effects of sufficient daily physical activity, regular meal patterns, sufficient sleep duration and quality sleep on energy balance, the overall effect of the amplitude and stability of the circadian rhythm, perhaps including genetic predisposition, may integrate the separate effects in an additive way.

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* Corresponding author: Professor M. S. Westerterp-Plantenga, email
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