Purpose of review: To highlight the recent findings on sleep-obesity associations in children. We focus on sleep duration, sleep timing and chronotype, and describe the potential mechanisms underlying sleep-obesity associations.
Recent findings: Poor sleep is increasingly common in children and associations between short sleep duration in early childhood and obesity are consistently found. Less is known about the infancy period, and the findings in adolescents are inconsistent. Sleep timing patterns may also contribute to obesity risk. Variable and shifted sleep schedules and evening chronotypes have recently been linked to adiposity in adults; less is known about children. Further, there is little understanding regarding the mechanisms of association. The timing of eating, dietary intake, obesogenic eating behaviors, and changes in appetite-regulating hormones have been identified as possible mechanisms for sleep-obesity associations and may be promising avenues for future research. Longitudinal and experimental work with children is needed to determine the nature of associations.
Summary: Beyond sleep duration, sleep timing patterns may contribute to obesity risk. Biological and behavioral processes have been proposed as mechanisms that may explain the association. Understanding the pathways through which poor sleep patterns could increase obesity risk in children may provide novel avenues for intervention.