OBJECTIVE. The potential association between short sleep duration or sleep problems and childhood overweight has not been well described. The objective of this study was to test the independent associations of sleep duration and problems with overweight risk in children.

METHODS. Data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development were analyzed. In 3rd and 6th grades, sleep duration and problems were obtained by maternal report, and height and weight were measured, with overweight defined as a BMI of ≥95th percentile for age and gender. Logistic regression evaluated the association of sleep duration and problems with overweight at 6th grade cross-sectionally adjusting for gender, race, and maternal education. Additional covariates tested individually included the level of chaos at home, the quality of the home environment, the lax-parenting subscale score of the Raising Children Checklist, and the Child Behavior Checklist internalizing and externalizing subscale scores. Logistic regression also evaluated the relationship of sleep duration at 3rd grade and overweight at 6th grade, adjusting for gender, race, maternal education, and the child's BMI z score in 3rd grade.

RESULTS. Of 785 children, 50% were male, 81% were white, and 18% were overweight in 6th grade. Shorter sleep duration in 6th grade was independently associated with a greater likelihood of overweight in 6th grade. Shorter sleep duration in 3rd grade was also independently associated with overweight in 6th grade, independent of the child's weight status in 3rd grade. Sleep problems were not associated with overweight.

CONCLUSION. One preventive approach to overweight may be to ensure adequate sleep in childhood.

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