Objectives: To examine the associations between sleep parameters and weight status in a large sample of preschool children.
Design: Cross-sectional survey data from the Effective Early Educational Experiences for children (E4Kids) study were analyzed.
Participants: 1,111 children aged 3 to 6 years from Queensland and Victoria, Australia.
Measurements: General linear modeling, with adjustment for significant control variables, assessed the impact of night sleep duration, total sleep duration, napping frequency, sleep timing (onset, offset and midpoint), and severity of sleep problems on standardized body mass index (BMI z score). General linear modeling was conducted for the total sample and then separately by sex.
Results: For the total sample, there was a significant association between short sleep duration (≤10 hours) and increased BMI z score. No other sleep parameters were associated with BMI z score in this sample. Analyses by sex revealed that, among girls, there were no associations between any sleep parameter and BMI z score. However, among boys, short night sleep duration and napping frequency were both significantly associated with weight status even after adjustment for controls.
Conclusion: Night sleep duration is a consistent independent predictor of body mass in young children. These results identify a complex relationship between sleep and body mass that implicates sex. Potential mechanisms that might explain sex differences warrant further investigation.