Influence of weeks of circadian misalignment on leptin levels.
The neurobiology of circadian, wakefulness-sleep, and feeding systems interact to influence energy homeostasis. Sleep and circadian disruptions are reported to be associated with increased risk of diabetes and obesity, yet the roles of energy balance hormones in these associations are largely unknown. Therefore, in the current study we aimed to assess the influence of several weeks of circadian misalignment (sleep and wakefulness occurring at an inappropriate biological time) on the anorexigenic adipocyte hormone leptin. We utilized data from a previous study designed to assess physiological and cognitive consequences of changes in day length and light exposure as may occur during space flight, including exploration class space missions and exposure to the Martian Sol (day length). We hypothesized that circadian misalignment during an exploration class spaceflight simulation would reduce leptin levels. Following a three-week ~8 hours per night home sleep schedule, 14 healthy participants lived in the laboratory for more than one month. After baseline data collection, participants were scheduled to either 24.0 or 24.6 hours of wakefulness-sleep schedules for 25 days. Changes in the phase of the circadian melatonin rhythm, sleep, and leptin levels were assessed. Half of participants analyzed exhibited circadian misalignment with an average change in phase angle from baseline of ~4 hours and these participants showed reduced leptin levels, sleep latency, stage 2 and total sleep time (7.3 to 6.6 hours) and increased wakefulness after sleep onset (all P < 0.05). The control group remained synchronized and showed significant increases in sleep latency and leptin levels. Our findings indicate that weeks of circadian misalignment, such as that which occurs in circadian sleep disorders, alters leptin levels and therefore may have implications for appetite and energy balance.