The relationship between sleep and weight in a sample of adolescents

Obesity (Silver Spring). 2011 Feb;19(2):324-31. doi: 10.1038/oby.2010.242. Epub 2010 Oct 14.


Research to date in young children and adults shows a strong, inverse relationship between sleep duration and risk for overweight and obesity. Fewer studies examining this relationship have been conducted in adolescents. The purpose of the article is to describe the relationship between sleep and weight in a population of adolescents, controlling for demographics, energy intake, energy expenditure, and depression. This is a cross-sectional study of 723 adolescents participating in population-based studies of the etiologic factors related to obesity. We examined the relationship between three weight-related dependent variables obtained through a clinical assessment and three sleep variables obtained through self-report. Average caloric intake from dietary recalls, average activity counts based on accelerometers, and depression were included as covariates and the analysis was stratified by gender and grade level. Our results show that the relationship between sleep duration and BMI is evident in middle-school boys (β = -0.32, s.e. = 0.06: P < 0.001) and girls (β = -0.18, s.e. = 0.08: P = 0.02) but largely absent in high-school students. Differences in sleep patterns have little association with weight in males, but in high-school girls, waking up late on weekends as compared to weekdays is associated with lower body fat (β = -0.80, s.e. = 0.40: P = 0.05) and a healthy weight status (β = -0.28, s.e. = 0.14: P = 0.05). This study adds to the evidence that, particularly for middle-school boys and girls, inadequate sleep is a risk factor for early adolescent obesity. Future research needs to examine the relationship longitudinally and to study potential mediators of the relationship.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology
  • Body Composition / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight / physiology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Energy Intake / physiology
  • Energy Metabolism / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Obesity / epidemiology
  • Obesity / etiology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*