The association between sleep duration and obesity in older adults

Int J Obes (Lond). 2008 Dec;32(12):1825-34. doi: 10.1038/ijo.2008.198. Epub 2008 Oct 21.


Background: Reduced sleep has been reported to predict obesity in children and young adults. However, studies based on self-report have been unable to identify an association in older populations. In this study, the cross-sectional associations between sleep duration measured objectively and measures of weight and body composition were assessed in two cohorts of older adults.

Methods: Wrist actigraphy was performed for a mean (s.d.) of 5.2 (0.9) nights in 3055 men (age: 67-96 years) participating in the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men Study (MrOS) and 4.1 (0.8) nights in 3052 women (age: 70-99 years) participating in the Study of Osteoporotic Fractures (SOF). A subgroup of 2862 men and 455 women also underwent polysomnography to measure sleep apnea severity.

Results: Compared to those sleeping an average of 7-8 h per night, and after adjusting for multiple risk factors and medical conditions, a sleep duration of less than 5 h was associated with a body mass index (BMI) that was on average 2.5 kg/m(2) (95% confidence interval (CI): 2.0-2.9) greater in men and 1.8 kg/m(2) (95% CI: 1.1-2.4) greater in women. The odds of obesity (BMI >or= 30 kg/m(2)) was 3.7-fold greater (95% CI: 2.7-5.0) in men and 2.3-fold greater in women (95% CI: 1.6-3.1) who slept less than 5 h. Short sleep was also associated with central body fat distribution and increased percent body fat. These associations persisted after adjusting for sleep apnea, insomnia and daytime sleepiness.

Conclusions: In older men and women, actigraphy-ascertained reduced sleep durations are strongly associated with greater adiposity.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity*
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Polysomnography
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / complications*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / complications*
  • Time Factors
  • United States
  • Waist Circumference

Grants and funding