Obesity has reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. and more developed countries, particularly so among adolescents. A substantial impact on public health could be achieved if other factors causing obesity besides the conventional ones of diet and physical activity could be identified and acted upon. The present study investigates whether there is a link between low sleep quality and obesity in a tri-ethnic, cross-sectional sample (n = 383) of male and female adolescents ages 11-16 years old (Heartfelt Study). Sleep quality was expressed as two variables, total sleep time and sleep disturbance time obtained by 24-hour wrist actigraphy. Percent body fat and body mass index (BMI) were used together to define obesity. The potential influence of demographic and behavioral confounders were considered in models that described the relation of sleep to obesity occurrence. Obese adolescents experienced less sleep than nonobese adolescents (P < 0.01). For each hour of lost sleep, the odds of obesity increased by 80%. Sleep disturbance was not directly related to obesity in the sample, but influenced physical activity level (P < 0.01). Daytime physical activity diminished by 3% for every hour increase in sleep disturbance. The above observations were independent of potential confounding variables. Inadequate and poor sleep quality in adolescents may be important factors to consider in the prevention of childhood obesity.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.