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Sleep, ghrelin, leptin and changes in body weight during a 1-year moderate-intensity physical activity intervention



To investigate cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships among exercise, sleep, ghrelin and leptin.


We randomly assigned 173 post-menopausal sedentary overweight (body mass index 24.0 kg/m2 and >33% body fat) women aged 50–75 years living in western Washington State to either a facility- and home-based moderate-intensity physical activity intervention or a stretching control group. Fasting plasma ghrelin, leptin, measured height, weight and self-reported sleep were assessed at baseline and 12 months.


There were no consistent cross-sectional patterns between self-reported sleep measures and ghrelin or leptin at baseline. The weight loss differences between exercisers and stretchers were greater for those who slept less at follow-up than at baseline compared to those whose sleep duration did not change (−3.2 kg, 95% confidence interval (CI) −5.8, −0.5). Improvements in sleep quality were associated with significantly greater differences between exercisers and stretchers for ghrelin increases (improved vs same sleep quality: +115 pg/ml, 95% CI +25, +206) and leptin decreases (improved vs worsened sleep quality: −5.7 ng/ml, 95% CI −9.5, −1.5).


There was only limited evidence that changes in sleep duration or quality modified exercise-induced changes in weight, ghrelin or leptin. Moreover, the observed differences were not in the directions hypothesized. Future longitudinal studies including population-based samples using objective measures of sleep and long follow-up may help to clarify these relationships.

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Dr Littman was partially funded by a training grant in cancer epidemiology R25 CA94880 through the National Cancer Institute. Dr Tworoger was partially supported by a training grant in cancer epidemiology T32 CA090001 from the National Cancer Institute.

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Littman, A., Vitiello, M., Foster-Schubert, K. et al. Sleep, ghrelin, leptin and changes in body weight during a 1-year moderate-intensity physical activity intervention. Int J Obes 31, 466–475 (2007).

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