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Habitual sleep and human plasma metabolomics



Sleep plays an important role in cardiometabolic health. The sleep-wake cycle is partially driven by the endogenous circadian clock, which governs a range of metabolic pathways. The association between sleep and cardiometabolic health may be mediated by alterations of the human metabolome.


To better understand the biological mechanism underlying the association between sleep and health, we examined human plasma metabolites in relation to sleep duration and sleep timing.


Using an untargeted approach, 329 fasting plasma metabolites were measured in 277 Chinese participants. We measured sleep timing (midpoint between bedtime and wake up time) using repeated time-use surveys (4 weeks during 1 year) and previous night sleep duration from questionnaires completed before sample donation.


We found 64 metabolites that were associated with sleep timing with a false discovery rate of 0.2 or lower, after adjusting for potential confounders. Notably, we found that later sleep timing was associated with higher levels of multiple metabolites in amino acid metabolism, including branched chain amino acids and their gamma-glutamyl dipeptides. We also found widespread associations between sleep timing and numerous metabolites in lipid metabolism, including bile acids, carnitines and fatty acids. In contrast, previous night sleep duration was not associated with plasma metabolites in our study.


Sleep timing was associated with a large number of metabolites across a variety of biochemical pathways. Some metabolite associations are consistent with a relationship between late chronotype and adverse effects on cardiometabolic health.

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This research was supported by the Intramural Research Program of the National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute, Department of Health and Human Services.

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Correspondence to Qian Xiao.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Xiao, Q., Derkach, A., Moore, S.C. et al. Habitual sleep and human plasma metabolomics. Metabolomics 13, 63 (2017).

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  • Sleep duration
  • Sleep timing
  • Metabolomics