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Short sleep duration and obesity among Australian children

Zumin Shi12*, Anne W Taylor12, Tiffany K Gill12, Jane Tuckerman1, Robert Adams2 and James Martin3

Author Affiliations

1 Population Research and Outcome Studies Unit, Department of Health, South Australia

2 Department of Medicine, University of Adelaide, South Australia

3 Department of Pulmonary Medicine, Women's and Children's Hospital, South Australia

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BMC Public Health 2010, 10:609  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-10-609

Published: 15 October 2010



There is limited information on sleep duration and obesity among Australian children. The objective of the study is to cross-sectionally examine the relationship between sleep duration and obesity in Australian children aged 5 to 15 years.


Data were collected using the South Australian Monitoring and Surveillance System between January 2004 and December 2008. Each month a representative random sample of South Australians are selected from the Electronic White Pages with interviews conducted using Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing (CATI). Within each household, the person who was last to have a birthday was selected for interview. Parents reported the number of hours their children slept each day. Obesity was defined according to the International Obesity Task Force (IOTF) definition based on BMI calculated from reported body weight and height.


Overall, parents of 3495 children aged 5-15 years (mean 10.7 years, 50.3% boys) were interviewed. The prevalence of obesity was 7.7% (8.9% in boys, 6.6% in girls). In multivariate analysis after adjusting for sociodemographic variables, intake of fruit and vegetables, physical activity and inactivity, the odds ratio (OR) for obesity comparing sleeping <9 hours with ≥10 hours was 2.23 (95% CI 1.04-4.76) among boys, 1.70(0.78-3.73) among girls, and 1.97(1.15-3.38) in both genders. The association between short sleep (<9 hours) and obesity was stronger in the younger age group. No significant association between short sleep and obesity was found among children aged 13-15. There was also an additive interaction between short sleep and low level of physical activity.


Short sleep duration is associated with increased obesity in children especially among younger age groups and boys.