Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Human Metabolome

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The negative effects of sleep deprivation on brain activity and performance in cognitive tasks have been studied for generations. However, loss of sleep also has a significant impact on the manifestation of various diseases and metabolic disorders (obesity, diabetes) and cardiovascular disease. This is why for this assignment I have picked a paper that focuses on the effect of acute sleep deprivation on metabolomic profiles of patients (Davies et. al. 2014).

The study used untargeted and targeted liquid chromatography (LC)/MS metabolomics to examine the effect of acute sleep deprivation on plasma metabolite rhythms. Characterization of plasma metabolites has revealed that lipid and acylcarnitine levels were significantly increased during acute sleep deprivation. Overall, 27 metabolites (tryptophan, serotonin, taurine, 8 acylcarnitines, 13 glycerophospholipids, and 3 sphingolipids) were increased after 24 hours of wakefulness. The levels of all metabolites changed during the 24 h wake/sleep cycle and clear daily rhythms were observed in most cases. Moreover, these rhythms were less apparent after 24 hours of wakefulness, which speaks to the significance of sleep for metabolic processes.

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The significance of this study is enhanced by the fact that this is the first study focused on characterization of the 24 h rhythms of metabolic processes during the wake/sleep cycle and the changes occuring during the wakefulness period. There have been previous studies which used transcriptomic data to show that rhythmic gene expression may be affected by sleep deprivation or sleep restriction. However, metabolic profiling studies are best used for the purpose of characterising changes in specific molecular phenotypes associated with sleep deprivation (rather than inferring the changes in the metabolome from the transcriptome).


For the purpose of this study, twelve healthy young males were selected and monitored in carefully controlled laboratory conditions. The controlled variables included environmental light, sleep, meals, and posture during a 24-h wake/sleep cycle, followed by 24 h of wakefulness.


The present study uses liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to ascertain the concentrations of plasma metabolites and link the changes in these concentration to the wake/sleep cycle rhythms.

As suggested in the name, LC-MS combines the physical separation of molecules using liquid chromatography with the mass analysis capabilities of mass spectrometry (MS). The coupling of the two technologies provides higher accuracy in identification of structural identity of the individual components with high molecular specificity and detection sensitivity.

In the first step (liquid chromatography) solubilized compounds are passed through a column packed with a stationary phase. The needed molecules in the mobile phase (which have the affinity for the stationary phase) get stuck on the solid stationary phase,

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