Short Sleep Duration in Infancy and Risk of Childhood Overweight

In this prospective study of 915 preschool-aged children, sleep duration of less than 12 hours in a 24-hour period in the first two years of life was associated with higher adiposity and greater odds of overweight at age three years.

A growing body of evidence suggests that sleep deprivation has adverse effects on the weight of older children and adults. This article expands on this research by examining the longitudinal association of short sleep duration between ages six months and two years, the period known as infancy, with adiposity and overweight at age three years in the study group.

Key Findings:

  • Sleep duration of less than 12 hours per day during infancy was associated at age three years with increased adiposity, measured by both body mass index (BMI) and skin-fold thickness, and with two-fold increased odds of overweight.
  • Children whose parents were single or divorced or who lived in homes with lower household incomes and lower maternal educational attainment were more likely to sleep less than 12 hours per day. Children who were black, Hispanic, or other race/ethnicity also were more likely than white children to sleep less than 12 hours per day.
  • Shorter sleep duration was associated with more hours of television viewing.

These findings suggest that strategies to improve sleep duration among young children may be an important component of behavioral interventions that promote childhood overweight prevention.