Metabolic, Endocrine, and Immune Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Laila AlDabal1, Ahmed S BaHammam*, 2
1 Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Rashid Hospital, Dubai Health Authority, United Arab Emirates
2 University Sleep Disorders Center, College of Medicine, King Saud University, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

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© AlDabal and BaHammam; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the University Sleep Disorders Center, College of Medicine, King Saud University, P.O. Box 225503, Riyadh 11324, Saudi Arabia; Tel: 966-1-467-9179; Fax: 966-1-467-9495; E-mail:


Over the last three to four decades, it has been observed that the average total hours of sleep have decreased to less than seven hours per person per night. Concomitantly, global figures relating to obesity and diabetes mellitus have increased in an alarming fashion in adults and children, and it has been hypothesized that neuro-hormonal changes accompanying this behavioral sleep deprivation may lead to insulin resistance and, subsequently, to diabetes mellitus. Sleep deprivation has been associated with multiple physiological changes, including increased cortisol and ghrelin levels, decreased leptin levels and impaired glucose metabolism. Experimental studies have also shown an increase in inflammatory and pro-inflammatory markers, which are indicators of body stress, under sleep deprivation. This review elaborates further on this hypothesis, exploring the molecular basis for the link between both entities and the underlying pathophysiology that results in insulin resistance and diabetes mellitus. We review the results of experimental and epidemiological studies, specifically examining the relationship between sleep duration and the immune and endocrine systems.

Keywords: Sleep deprivation, obesity, glucose intolerance, insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, ghrelin, leptin..