How do associations between sleep duration and metabolic health differ with age in the UK general population?

PLoS One. 2020 Nov 23;15(11):e0242852. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0242852. eCollection 2020.


Background: Despite a growing body of evidence suggesting that short sleep duration may be linked to adverse metabolic outcomes, how these associations differ between age groups remains unclear. We use eight years of data from the UK National Diet and Nutritional Survey (NDNS) (2008-2016) to analyse cross-sectional relationships between sleep duration and metabolic risk in participants aged 11-70 years.

Methods: Participants (n = 2008) who provided both metabolic risk and sleep duration data were included. Self-reported sleep duration was standardised by age, to account for differences in age-related sleep requirements. A standardised metabolic risk score was constructed, comprising: waist circumference, blood pressure, serum triglycerides, serum high-density lipoprotein cholesterol, and fasting plasma glucose. Regression models were constructed across four age groups from adolescents to older adults.

Results: Overall, decreased sleep duration (hrs) was associated with an increased metabolic risk (standard deviations) with significant quadratic (B:0.028 [95%CI: 0.007, 0.050]) and linear (B:-0.061 [95%CI: -0.111, -0.011]) sleep duration coefficients. When separated by age group, stronger associations were seen among mid-aged adults (36-50y) (quadratic coefficient: 0.038 [95%CI: 0.002, 0.074]) compared to other age groups (e.g. adolescents (11-18y), quadratic coefficient: -0.009 [95%CI: -0.042, 0.025]). An increased difference between weekend and weekday sleep was only associated with increased metabolic risk in adults aged 51-70 years (B:0.18 [95%CI: 0.005, 0.348]).

Conclusions: Our results indicate that sleep duration is linked to adverse metabolic risk and suggest heterogeneity between age groups. Longitudinal studies with larger sample sizes are required to explore long-term effects of abnormal sleep and potential remedial benefits.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Aging / pathology*
  • Blood Pressure / physiology
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Cholesterol, HDL / blood
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Metabolic Syndrome / blood
  • Metabolic Syndrome / epidemiology*
  • Metabolic Syndrome / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutrition Surveys
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep / genetics
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / blood
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / pathology
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Waist Circumference / physiology
  • Young Adult


  • Cholesterol, HDL