Disruption to sleep and circadian rhythms can impact on metabolism. The study aimed to investigate the effect of acute sleep deprivation on plasma melatonin, cortisol and metabolites, to increase understanding of the metabolic pathways involved in sleep/wake regulation processes.
Twelve healthy young female participants remained in controlled laboratory conditions for ~92 hr with respect to posture, meals and environmental light (18:00–23:00 hr and 07:00‐09:00 hr <8 lux; 23:00–07:00 hr 0 lux (sleep opportunity) or <8 lux (continuous wakefulness); 09:00–18:00 hr ~90 lux). Regular blood samples were collected for 70 hr for plasma melatonin and cortisol, and targeted liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry metabolomics. Timepoints between 00:00 and 06:00 hr for day 1 (baseline sleep), day 2 (sleep deprivation) and day 3 (recovery sleep) were analysed. Cosinor analysis and MetaCycle analysis were performed for detection of rhythmicity. Night‐time melatonin levels were significantly increased during sleep deprivation and returned to baseline levels during recovery sleep.
No significant differences were observed in cortisol levels. Of 130 plasma metabolites quantified, 41 metabolites were significantly altered across the study nights, with the majority decreasing during sleep deprivation, most notably phosphatidylcholines. In cosinor analysis, 58 metabolites maintained their rhythmicity across the study days, with the majority showing a phase advance during acute sleep deprivation. This observation differs to that previously reported for males. Our study is the first of metabolic profiling in females during sleep deprivation and recovery sleep, and offers a novel view of human sleep/wake regulation and sex differences.