Poor sleep and adolescent obesity risk: a narrative review of potential mechanisms

Adolesc Health Med Ther. 2019 Sep 9;10:117-130. doi: 10.2147/AHMT.S219594. eCollection 2019.


Poor sleep is related to increased obesity risk in adolescents, though the mechanisms of this relationship are unclear. This paper presents a conceptual framework of the various pathways that have been proposed to drive this relationship. In this framework, increased food reward, emotional reactivity, decreased inhibitory control, metabolic disturbances, poorer dietary quality, and disrupted meal timings may increase the likelihood of increasing overall energy intake. This paper further notes how poor sleep increases sedentary behavior and screen time, which likely limits overall energy expenditure. The model posits that these mechanisms result in an imbalance of energy intake and expenditure following poor sleep, intensifying the overall risk for obesity. Increases in food reward processes, decreases in insulin sensitivity, disrupted meal timing, and increases in sedentary behavior seem to be the most compelling mechanisms linking poor sleep with increased obesity risk in adolescents. Future directions and clinical implications of this framework are discussed.

Keywords: diet; food reward; inhibitory control; obesity; sedentary behavior; sleep.