Childhood sleep deprivation raises odds of later obesity

October 1, 2010

Short durations of sleep among infants and preschool-aged children appear to be a risk factor for obesity later in childhood.

Short durations of sleep among infants and preschool-aged children appear to be a risk factor for obesity later in childhood.

A study published in the September issue of Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine tracked sleep patterns of 1,930 children up to 13 years old. Activity and sleep-duration data were collected at baseline (1997). For this analysis, the children were divided into younger (aged 0 to 4 years) and older (aged 5 to 13 years) cohorts.

At 5 years' follow-up, 33% of the younger cohort and 36% of the older cohort were classified as either overweight or obese. For the younger cohort, low nighttime sleep duration (defined as <25th percentile for age) at baseline increased the subsequent risk of overweight or obesity by 80%. Daytime sleep was not associated with subsequent obesity.

Researchers say the findings suggest that there is a critical window before the age of 5 years when nighttime sleep may be important for subsequent obesity status. Because daytime sleep was not associated with later obesity at any age, they conclude that napping is not a substitute for nighttime sleep.