Associations between Sleep and Dietary Patterns among Low-Income Children Attending Preschool

J Acad Nutr Diet. 2019 Jul;119(7):1176-1187. doi: 10.1016/j.jand.2019.01.008. Epub 2019 Mar 14.


Background: Sleep disturbances and low-quality diets are prevalent among children in low-income settings, yet the nature of their relationship remains unclear. In particular, whether aspects other than sleep duration, including timing and quality, are associated with dietary patterns has rarely been examined, especially among preschool-aged children.

Objective: To evaluate whether nightly and total sleep duration, sleep timing, differences in timing and duration from weekdays to weekends, and sleep quality were related to dietary patterns.

Design: A cross-sectional analysis of children attending preschool. Parents completed questionnaires about children's sleep habits as well as a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire.

Participants/setting: Three hundred fifty-four English-speaking children (49.9% boys) with no serious medical conditions aged 3 to 5 years who were enrolled in Head Start in Michigan (2009-2011) with complete information on sleep and diet.

Main outcome measures: Dietary pattern scores derived from food frequency questionnaire.

Statistical analyses performed: Principal component analysis was used to identify dietary patterns. Separate linear regression models with dietary pattern scores as the dependent variable and continuous sleep measures as independent variables were used to evaluate associations between sleep and diet, adjusting for sex, age, parent education level, and sleep hygiene.

Results: Three dietary patterns were identified: Vegetables, Healthy Proteins, and Sides; Breads and Spreads; and Processed and Fried. Longer average weekend sleep duration and a greater difference in weekend-to-weekday sleep duration was related to lower Vegetables, Healthy Proteins, and Sides pattern scores. Later sleep midpoint during weekdays was related to lower Vegetables, Healthy Proteins, and Sides pattern scores, whereas later sleep midpoint on the weekend was associated with higher Processed and Fried pattern scores. Similarly, a larger weekend-weekday midpoint difference was associated with higher Processed and Fried pattern scores.

Conclusions: Later sleep timing and differences in sleep duration and timing from weekends to weekdays were related to less-optimal dietary pattern scores in young children.

Keywords: Food frequency questionnaire; Sleep hygiene; Sleep timing.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Diet / methods
  • Diet / statistics & numerical data*
  • Feeding Behavior*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Poverty / statistics & numerical data*
  • Schools, Nursery
  • Sleep*
  • Students / statistics & numerical data*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors