First evidence suggests that chronobiological aspects of sleep restriction affect metabolic conditions. Our aim was to investigate whether spontaneous free-living physical activity likewise is affected by chronobiological timing of short sleep.
In an experimental randomized, balanced cross-over design, eleven healthy, normal-weight (BMI: 23.9 ± 0.4 kg/m2) men were evaluated. Physical activity was assessed by tri-axial wrist actigraphy after (i) four-hour sleep during the first night-half of the night (‘late night sleep loss’), (ii) four-hour sleep during the second night-half (‘early night sleep loss’), and (iii) eight-hour regular sleep (‘regular sleep’), from 7:00 to 24:00 (17 h). Feelings of tiredness and activity were measured by semi-quantitative questionnaires.
Physical activity differed between sleep conditions (P < 0.05) with the lowest physical activity after ‘late night sleep loss’. Accordingly, less time was spent in high-intensity physical activity after ‘late night sleep loss’ as compared to the ‘early night sleep loss’ and ‘regular sleep’ conditions (both P < 0.05). Perceived feelings of tiredness were higher after both short sleep conditions as compared to ‘regular sleep’ (both P < 0.05).
Sleep restriction during the second half of the night elicits stronger effects on spontaneous physical activity than sleep restriction during the first half of the night despite identical sleep duration, but the impact of longer period awake needs to be evaluated in further research. In sum, these data indicate that not only short sleep per se but also chronobiological aspects modulate physical activity pattern.