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Overnight weight loss: relationship with sleep structure and heart rate variability



Weight loss can be caused by a loss of body mass due to metabolism and by water loss as unsensible water loss, sweating, or excretion in feces and urine. Although weight loss during sleep is a well-known phenomenon, it has not yet been studied in relation to sleep structure or autonomic tonus during sleep. Our study is proposed to be a first step in assessing the relationship between overnight weight loss, sleep structure, and HRV (heart rate variability) parameters.


Twenty-five healthy volunteers received a 487 kcal meal and 200 ml water before experiment. Volunteers were weighed before and after polysomnography. Absolute and relative weight indices were calculated. Time and frequency domain analysis of heart rate variability was assessed during stages 2, 4, and REM. Nonparametric linear regression analysis was performed between night weight loss parameters, polysomnographic, and HRV ariables.


HF correlated positively with weight loss during stage 4. Slow wave sleep duration correlated positively with weight loss and weight loss rate. The duration of Stage 2 correlated negatively with absolute and relative weight loss.


Weight loss during sleep is dependent upon sleep stage duration and sleep autonomic tonus. Slow-wave sleep and sleep parasympathetic tonus may be important for weight homeostasis.

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Correspondence to Walter Moraes.

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Moraes, W., Poyares, D., Guilleminault, C. et al. Overnight weight loss: relationship with sleep structure and heart rate variability. Nat Prec (2008).

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  • weight loss
  • heart rate variability
  • polysomnography
  • sleep


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