Early sleep abnormalities linked to later obesity



Sleep-disordered breathing and short sleep duration in early childhood are strongly and independently associated with obesity at ages 7, 10, and 15 years, according to a report published online Dec. 11 in the Journal of Pediatrics.

These findings underscore the importance of identifying and treating sleep-disordered breathing and insufficient sleep as early as possible to reduce later obesity, said Karen Bonuck, Ph.D., of the department of family medicine and social medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Bronx, N.Y., and her associates.

Children with sleep abnormalities are at increased risk for developing obesity, the study suggests. ©deyangeorgiev/

Children with sleep abnormalities are at increased risk for developing obesity, the study suggests.

To examine the relationships between sleep abnormalities and obesity in the pediatric population, the investigators analyzed data from a large longitudinal cohort study of children born during 1991-1992 in southwest England. Participating mothers reported on their children’s sleep duration and on the presence and severity of sleep-disordered breathing, which was defined as snoring, observed episodes of apnea, and mouth-breathing during sleep. These were assessed at ages 18 months, 2.5 years, 4.75 years, 5.75 years, and 6.75 years. The children’s body mass index was calculated from height and weight measurements taken at ages 7, 10, and 15 years.

In this analysis of 1,844 of the participating children, those with the most severe sleep-disordered breathing at age 2.5 years were twice as likely as were asymptomatic children to be obese in later childhood. Similarly, children with short sleep duration at ages 5-6 years (less than 10 hours per night) were twice as likely to be obese at age 15 as were those with the longest sleep duration. These negative effects were independent of each other and of comparable magnitude, Dr. Bonuck and her associates said (J. Pediatr. 2014 Dec. 11 [doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.11.001]).

“Our findings affirm the concept of healthy sleep ... as a foundation for healthy weight throughout childhood and into adulthood,” they added.

This study was supported by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, the U.K. Medical Research Council, and the University of Bristol (England) Dr. Bonuck and her associates reported having no financial disclosures.

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