Increased food intake and changes in metabolic hormones in response to chronic sleep restriction alternated with short periods of sleep allowance:
Rodent models for sleep restriction have good face validity when examining food intake and related regulatory metabolic hormones. However, in contrast to epidemiological studies in which sleep restriction is associated with body weight gain, sleep-restricted rats show a decrease in body weight. This difference with the human situation might be caused by the alternation between periods of sleep restriction and sleep allowance that often occur in real life. Therefore, we assessed the metabolic consequences of a chronic sleep restriction protocol that modeled working weeks with restricted sleep time alternated by weekends with sleep allowance. We hypothesized that this protocol could lead to body weight gain. Male Wistar rats were divided into three groups: sleep restriction (SR), forced activity control (FA), and home cage control (HC). SR rats were subjected to chronic sleep restriction by keeping them awake for 20 h per day in slowly rotating drums. To model the human condition, rats were subjected to a 4-wk protocol, with each week consisting of a 5-day period of sleep restriction followed by a 2-day period of sleep allowance. During the first experimental week, SR caused a clear attenuation of growth. In subsequent weeks, two important processes occurred: 1) a remarkable increase in food intake during SR days, 2) an increase in weight gain during the weekends of sleep allowance, even though food intake during those days was comparable to controls. In conclusion, our data revealed that the alternation between periods of sleep restriction and sleep allowance leads to complex changes in food intake and body weight, that prevent the weight loss normally seen in continuous sleep-restricted rats. Therefore, this "week-weekend" protocol may be a better model to study the metabolic consequences of restricted sleep.