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Sleep and meal timing influence food intake and its hormonal regulation in healthy adults with overweight/obesity



Studies associate sleeping and eating late in the day with poor dietary quality and higher obesity risk but differences in sleep duration confound this association. We aimed to determine whether sleep and meal timing, independent of sleep duration, influenced food intake in healthy adults.


This was a controlled, 2 × 2 inpatient crossover study with normal (0000-0800 h) or late (0330-1130 h) sleep and normal (1, 5, 11, and 12.5 h after awakening) or late (4.5, 8.5, 14.5, and 16 h after awakening) meals. Food intake was controlled while blood samples were obtained for determination of appetite-regulating hormones on days 3-4. Self-selected food intake was assessed on day 5. Data were analyzed using linear mixed model analysis with sleep, meal, and sleep x meal interaction as dependent variables.


Five participants completed all phases (mean age 25.1 ± [SD] 3.9 y, body mass index 29.2 ± 2.7 kg/m2). There was a significant sleep x meal interaction on energy intake (P = 0.035) and trends on fat and sodium intakes (P < 0.10). Overnight ghrelin concentrations were higher under normal sleep and meal conditions relative to late (P < 0.005) but lower when both were combined (P < 0.001). Overnight leptin concentrations were higher under normal meal conditions (P = 0.012). There was a significant sleep x meal interaction on ghrelin (P = 0.032) and glucagon-like peptide 1 (P = 0.041) concentrations, but not leptin (P = 0.83), in response to a test meal.


Our results suggest that alignment of sleep and meals may influence food choice and energy balance. Additional research is necessary to expand and confirm our findings.

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Author Contributions

MPSO designed the study, analyzed and interpreted data, and wrote the manuscript. She takes full responsibility for the data contained in this report. TP and KK conducted the study, analyzed data, and contributed to writing the manuscript. BL provided medical supervision for the study, assisted with data interpretation and manuscript preparation. AR performed statistical analysis of the data and assisted with data interpretation and manuscript preparation.


This study was funded by the National Institutes of Health grants R56HL0119945 (MPSO) and DK26687, and also in part by Columbia University’s CTSA grant UL1 TR000040 from NCATS/NIH. This article is published as part of a supplement sponsored by the Mediterranean Diet Foundation and the Diputació de Barcelona.

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Correspondence to Marie-Pierre St-Onge.

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M-PS-O received grant support from the National Institutes of Health. ARC owns stock in Alphabet Inc and received grant support National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation.

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St-Onge, MP., Pizinger, T., Kovtun, K. et al. Sleep and meal timing influence food intake and its hormonal regulation in healthy adults with overweight/obesity. Eur J Clin Nutr 72 (Suppl 1), 76–82 (2019).

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