Sleep Patterns of a Primarily Obese Sample of Treatment-Seeking Children

Study Questions:

Does day of the week matter in sleep patterns of obese children?


Obese children were recruited from a Florida community-based weight management program. Obesity was defined as child’s body mass index (BMI) >85th percentile for age and gender norms. Significant medical or developmental conditions excluded eligibility. Sleep variables were measured by an armband accelerometer for 7 days, 24 hours per day.


Of the 250 families agreeing to participate, 107 children did not wear the accelerometer for the required time. There were 143 obese children ages 7-13, with mean BMI 28.83 kg/m2. The sample size included 77 girls (53.8%), 18 (12.6%) African Americans, and 99 (69.2%) came from households with married participating parents. The mean sleep efficiency was 83.3%, which is below the “healthy” range of >90%, a threshold achieved by 16.8% of the cohort. A large majority, 88% of children slept <8 hours of sleep. Those most at risk were older and African American (compared to Caucasian) children. Children on break (weekends) initiated sleep later than during the week and woke later on weekends or on school break. There was no difference in day of the week or school break in predicting obese children’s sleep duration.


This is one of the first studies to examine sleep patterns in treatment-seeking obese children. The data are consistent with national trends of children obtaining shorter sleep. There was no significant interaction of day of the week in terms of total sleep time or sleep efficiency. Moreover, the delayed sleep preference in school children did not result in extension or greater sleep efficiency on the weekend.


A gap exists in our present understanding of how sleep impacts weight management in obese children. We look forward to more data from the Extension Family Lifestyle Intervention Project for Kids (E-FLIP for Kids, Contemp Clin Trials 2011;32:50-8) in examining how sleep impacts quality of life and psychosocial function of children with weight problems. Larger studies with use of validated measures of sleep duration are needed before reaching broad conclusions on these relationships.

Clinical Topics: Congenital Heart Disease and Pediatric Cardiology, CHD and Pediatrics and Prevention, Sleep Apnea

Keywords: Child, Life Style, Family Characteristics, Body Mass Index, African Americans, Quality of Life, European Continental Ancestry Group, Sleep, Obesity

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