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Causal Relationship Between Sleep Traits and Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Target Gland Axis Function: A Mendelian Randomization Study.

BACKGROUND: In recent years, multiple observational studies have confirmed the association between sleep traits and various human physiopathological states. However, the causal relationship between sleep traits and hypothalamic-pituitary-target gland axis (HPTGA) function remains unknown.

METHODS: We obtained summary statistics on sleep traits (insomnia, chronotype, and sleep duration (long and short)) from the UK Biobank database. Data related to the HPTGA functions were obtained from the publicly available database. Subsequently, a two-sample Mendelian randomization (MR) analysis was performed to investigate the causal relationship between different sleep traits and the HPTGA function. Reverse MR analysis was conducted to examine the direction of causality.

RESULTS: The MR analysis results suggested that chronotype is associated with decreased levels of six hormones in HPTGA. Sleep duration was causally associated with decreased levels of free thyroxine and progesterone. Both long and short sleep durations are detrimental to the secretion of prolactin-releasing peptide, somatostatin, and plasma cortisol, while short sleep duration can promote progesterone secretion. After gender stratification, we found that female reproductive function is more susceptible to the influence of unfavorable sleep traits.

CONCLUSION: Our MR analysis indicated a significant causal association between chronotype and suppressed gonadal function in healthy adult humans, with no apparent gender-specific effect. Extreme sleep durations were also found to be detrimental to the maintenance of normal HPTGA secretion function. Compared to males, gonadal function in the female cohort is more susceptible to extreme sleep habits. Subsequent observational studies are urgently needed to confirm the underlying mechanisms.

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