The relationship of sleep duration and quality to energy expenditure and physical activity in children

Pediatr Obes. 2021 Jun;16(6):e12751. doi: 10.1111/ijpo.12751. Epub 2020 Nov 15.


Background: Shorter sleep duration has been linked to the risk for obesity in children. The pathways linking sleep duration and quality to the risk of obesity are unclear, particularly the effect of sleep on energetics.

Objective: We investigated the relationship between sleep duration, quality and timing in children, to the basal metabolic rate (BMR), total energy expenditure (TEE) and physical activity (PA).

Methods: Fifty nine children in two age-groups (5-11 and 12-18 years) underwent evaluation of body composition (DXA), BMR in a room calorimeter, free-living TEE by doubly labelled water method, sleep and PA (7-day Actiheart monitor) during school break.

Results: Sleep duration contributed to the variance in BMR (β = 0.11, P = .009) after adjusting for age-group, sex, lean and fat mass, but not to the variance in TEE. Late sleep timing was related to lower PA. In the younger age-group, children who met recommended sleep duration on ≥50% of the 7 days had higher light PA (P = .03) and lower sedentary time (P = .009).

Conclusion: Suboptimal sleep is associated with lower BMR, lower PA, and higher sedentary behaviours in young children. Prospective studies are needed to confirm if insufficient sleep duration or late sleep timing contribute to obesity risk by increasing sedentary behaviours and decreasing BMR.

Keywords: childhood obesity; energy metabolism; physical activity; sleep quality.

MeSH terms

  • Basal Metabolism
  • Body Composition
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Exercise
  • Humans
  • Pediatric Obesity* / epidemiology
  • Pediatric Obesity* / prevention & control
  • Sleep