OBJECTIVE:

The goal was to explore the effects of duration and regularity of sleep schedules on BMI and the impact on metabolic regulation in children.

METHODS:

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.

RESULTS:

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.

CONCLUSIONS:

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.

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