Background

Inadequate sleep is a risk factor for obesity, but mechanisms are not fully understood. Appetite and eating behaviors may play a role. The purpose of this analysis was to examine relationships between sleep and eating behaviors among toddlers participating in the INSIGHT Study. We hypothesized that sleep duration would be positively associated with satiety responsiveness (SR) and negatively associated with obesogenic behaviors (food responsiveness (FR), desire to drink (DD), and emotional overeating (EOE)).

Methods

Mothers and infants (n=279) were enrolled at birth and randomized to a responsive parenting intervention or control group. At child age 2.5 years, mothers completed the Brief Infant Sleep Questionnaire and the Child Eating Behavior Questionnaire (CEBQ). Relationships between daytime, nighttime, and total sleep and CEBQ subscales were assessed using regression, controlling for study group, child sex, and overweight status at 2 years. Interactions between sleep and sex were also tested.

Results

Total sleep was not associated with any eating behaviors, but significant relationships emerged when looking separately at nighttime and daytime sleep. Night sleep duration was positively associated with SR (p=0.007), and was negatively associated with DD in girls, but not boys (interaction p=0.03). In contrast, daytime sleep duration was positively associated with FR (p=0.02) and DD (p=0.008), and negatively associated with SR (p=0.02). Daytime sleep was also positively associated with EOE in boys, but not girls (interaction p=0.03). Nighttime and daytime sleep were inversely correlated (r=-0.17, p=0.01).

Conclusions

Longer nighttime sleep is associated with greater satiety responsiveness, while longer daytime sleep (a potential marker for inadequate night sleep) is associated with obesogenic eating behaviors, particularly for boys. Future research with objective sleep and eating behavior measures is needed to further clarify the role of eating behaviors in the link between sleep and obesity.