Associations between the macronutrient composition of the evening meal and average daily sleep duration in early childhood

Clin Nutr. 2011 Oct;30(5):640-6. doi: 10.1016/j.clnu.2011.05.004. Epub 2011 Jun 8.


Background & aims: Short sleep duration in early childhood may increase the risk for chronic diseases in later life. Strategies to improve sleep duration are thus of interest. We investigated whether the nutritional composition of the evening meal is associated with children's sleep duration in the 2nd year of life.

Methods: Multivariable regression models included 594 participants of the DONALD Study with 3-days weighed dietary records and average daily sleep duration at age 1.5 and 2 years.

Results: Higher energy intakes with the evening meal were associated with a longer sleep duration (1 min/10 kcal, p = 0,01). With respect to absolute intakes, carbohydrates (0.8 min/g, p < 0.0001), especially from high GI foods (1.3 min/g, p < 0.01), and a higher GL (1.5 min/g GL, p < 0.01) were accompanied by longer sleeping time. A qualitative exchange of energy from protein by energy from carbohydrates from high GI foods was only associated with increased sleep duration in toddlers without (1.9 min/%E, p < 0.05), but not with nightly eating occasions (p > 0.4).

Conclusions: The observed associations are in line with suggested sleep-improving effects of carbohydrates. Effect sizes suggest that the clinical relevance of nutritional composition for sleep duration is limited in healthy young toddlers. These observations and their possible importance for more vulnerable groups need to be confirmed in clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Mass Index
  • Child Development*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diet Records
  • Diet* / adverse effects
  • Dietary Carbohydrates / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / administration & dosage
  • Dietary Proteins / adverse effects
  • Energy Intake
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Glycemic Index
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Nutrition Assessment
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology
  • Sleep*
  • Time Factors


  • Dietary Carbohydrates
  • Dietary Proteins