Sleep Duration and Adiposity in Early Childhood: Evidence for Bidirectional Associations from the Born in Bradford Study

Publication authors

Collings P, Ball HL, Santorelli G, West J, Barber SE, McEachan RRC, Wright J


Study Objectives:

To examine independent associations of sleep duration with total and abdominal adiposity, and the bidirectionality of these associations, in a young biethnic sample of children from a disadvantaged location.


Child sleep duration (h/day) was parent-reported by questionnaire and indices of total (body weight, body mass index, percent body fat (%BF), sum of skinfolds) and abdominal adiposity (waist circumference) were measured using standard anthropometric procedures at approximately 12, 18, 24, and 36 months of age in 1,338 children (58% South Asian; 42% White). Mixed effects models were used to quantify independent associations (expressed as standardised β-coefficients (95% confidence interval (CI)) of sleep duration with adiposity indices using data from all four time-points. Factors considered for adjustment in models included basic demographics, pregnancy and birth characteristics, and lifestyle behaviours.


With the exception of the sum of skinfolds, sleep duration was inversely and independently associated with indices of total and abdominal adiposity in South Asian children. For example, one standard deviation (SD) higher sleep duration was associated with reduced %BF by -0.029 (95% CI: −0.053, −0.0043) SDs. Higher adiposity was also independently associated with shorter sleep duration in South Asian children (for example, %BF: β = -0.10 (-0.16, -0.028) SDs). There were no significant associations in White children.


Associations between sleep duration and adiposity are bidirectional and independent among South Asian children from a disadvantaged location. The results highlight the importance of considering adiposity as both a determinant of decreased sleep and a potential consequence.

Statement of Significance

Few studies have investigated associations between sleep duration and adiposity in young ethnically diverse children from an economically deprived location. Using repeated-measures data collected at four time-points between approximately 12 and 36 months of age, this study found bidirectional inverse associations between parent-reported sleep duration with indicators of total and abdominal adiposity in South Asian children, independent of diverse potential confounding factors. The results highlight that adiposity may be both a determinant and consequence of decreased sleep in a population that is high risk for obesity and cardiometabolic disease. Longitudinal studies of multidimensional sleep constructs (duration, patterns and quality) and their associations with early childhood adiposity are needed, with greater focus on low socioeconomic status and ethnically diverse populations.