Sleep deprivation alters pubertal timing in humans and rats: the role of the gut microbiome

Shirley Priscilla Gunawan, Shih Yi Huang, Chun Chi Wang, Linh Ba Phuong Huynh, Nam Nhat Nguyen, Shih Yuan Hsu, Yang Ching Chen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objectives: Evidence implied that sleeping duration is associated with the timing of puberty and that sleep deprivation triggers early pubertal onset in adolescents. Sleep deprivation can affect metabolic changes and gut microbiota composition. This study investigated the effects of sleep deprivation on pubertal onset and gut microbiota composition in animal models and a human cohort. Methods: This study comprised 459 boys and 959 girls from the Taiwan Pubertal Longitudinal Study. Sleep duration was evaluated using the self-report Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index questionnaire. Early sexual maturation was defined by pediatric endocrinologist assessments. Mediation analyses were done to examine the association between sleep parameters, obesity, and early sexual maturation. Besides, Sprague Dawley juvenile rats were exposed to 4 weeks of chronic sleep deprivation. Vaginal opening (VO) and preputial separation (PS) were observed every morning to determine pubertal onset in female and male rats. Results: The sleep-deprived juvenile rats in the sleep-deprived-female (SDF) and sleep-deprived-male (SDM) groups experienced delayed VO (mean VO days: 33 days in control; 35 days in SDF; p-value < 0.05) and PS (mean PS days: 42 days in control; 45 days in SDM; p-value < 0.05), respectively. Relative to their non-sleep-deprived counterparts, the sleep-deprived juvenile rats exhibited lower body weight and body fat percentage. Significant differences in relative bacterial abundance at genus levels and decreased fecal short-chain-fatty-acid levels were identified in both the SDF and SDM groups. In the human cohort, insufficient sleep increased the risk of early sexual maturation, particularly in girls (OR, 1.44; 95% CI: 1.09 to 1.89; p-value < 0.01). Insufficient sleep also indirectly affected early sexual maturation in girls, with obesity serving as the mediator. Conclusions: Overall, sleep deprivation altered the timing of puberty in both animal and human models but in different directions. In the rat model, sleep deprivation delayed the pubertal onset in juvenile rats through gut dysbiosis and metabolic changes, leading to a low body weight and body fat percentage. In the human model, sleep deprivation led to fat accumulation, causing obesity in girls, which increased the risk of early puberty.

Original languageEnglish
Article numberzsad308
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1 2024


  • gut microbiota
  • obesity
  • pubertal onset
  • short-chain fatty acids
  • sleep deprivation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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