In parallel with the increasing prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes, sleep loss has become common in modern societies. An increasing number of epidemiological studies show an association between short sleep duration, sleep disturbances, and circadian desynchronisation of sleep with adverse metabolic traits, in particular obesity and type 2 diabetes. Furthermore, experimental studies point to distinct mechanisms by which insufficient sleep adversely affects metabolic health. Changes in the activity of neuroendocrine systems seem to be major mediators of the detrimental metabolic effects of insufficient sleep, through favouring neurobehavioural outcomes such as increased appetite, enhanced sensitivity to food stimuli, and, ultimately, a surplus in energy intake. The effect of curtailed sleep on physical activity and energy expenditure is less clear, but changes are unlikely to outweigh increases in food intake. Although long-term interventional studies proving a cause and effect association are still scarce, sleep loss seems to be an appealing target for the prevention, and probably treatment, of metabolic disease.