A Longitudinal Examination of Cumulative Short Sleep and Body Mass throughout Adolescence and Early Adulthood
Eric N. Reither, Utah State University
Andrew E. Burger, Utah State University
Lauren Hale, Stony Brook University, State University of New York (SUNY)
Paul Peppard, University of Wisconsin-Madison
The mechanisms theorized to link sleep duration and body mass suggest that chronic exposure to short sleep is likely to be more strongly linked to excess body mass than acute exposure to short sleep. Nevertheless, prior research has not examined the association between cumulative exposure to short sleep throughout adolescence and body mass in early adulthood. We use data from four waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Chronic exposure to short sleep is associated with substantially increased body mass in Wave 4, even when adjusting for cross-sectional sleep hours. Indeed, those who report short sleep in all four waves have BMIs that are 3 units higher on average than those who slept for the recommended duration across waves—an effect that is larger than the black-white difference in BMI. Our findings suggest that chronic exposure to short sleep in the population may have a profound impact on obesity.