The goal was to explore the effects of duration and regularity of sleep schedules on BMI and the impact on metabolic regulation in children.
Sleep patterns of 308 community-recruited children 4 to 10 years of age were assessed with wrist actigraphs for 1 week in a cross-sectional study, along with BMI assessment. Fasting morning plasma levels of glucose, insulin, lipids, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein also were measured for a subsample.
Children slept 8 hours per night, on average, regardless of their weight categorization. A nonlinear trend between sleep and weight emerged. For obese children, sleep duration was shorter and showed more variability on weekends, compared with school days. For overweight children, a mixed sleep pattern emerged. The presence of high variance in sleep duration or short sleep duration was more likely associated with altered insulin, low-density lipoprotein, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein plasma levels. Children whose sleep patterns were at the lower end of sleep duration, particularly in the presence of irregular sleep schedules, exhibited the greatest health risk.
Obese children were less likely to experience “catch-up” sleep on weekends, and the combination of shorter sleep duration and more-variable sleep patterns was associated with adverse metabolic outcomes. Educational campaigns, aimed at families, regarding longer and more-regular sleep may promote decreases in obesity rates and may improve metabolic dysfunction trends in school-aged children.