Research Original Research: Brief| Volume 119, ISSUE 7, P1176-1187, July 2019

Associations between Sleep and Dietary Patterns among Low-Income Children Attending Preschool

Published:March 14, 2019DOI:



      Sleep disturbances and low-quality diets are prevalent among children in low-income settings, yet the nature of their relationship remains unclear. In particular, whether aspects other than sleep duration, including timing and quality, are associated with dietary patterns has rarely been examined, especially among preschool-aged children.


      To evaluate whether nightly and total sleep duration, sleep timing, differences in timing and duration from weekdays to weekends, and sleep quality were related to dietary patterns.


      A cross-sectional analysis of children attending preschool. Parents completed questionnaires about children’s sleep habits as well as a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire.


      Three hundred fifty-four English-speaking children (49.9% boys) with no serious medical conditions aged 3 to 5 years who were enrolled in Head Start in Michigan (2009-2011) with complete information on sleep and diet.

      Main outcome measures

      Dietary pattern scores derived from food frequency questionnaire.

      Statistical analyses performed

      Principal component analysis was used to identify dietary patterns. Separate linear regression models with dietary pattern scores as the dependent variable and continuous sleep measures as independent variables were used to evaluate associations between sleep and diet, adjusting for sex, age, parent education level, and sleep hygiene.


      Three dietary patterns were identified: Vegetables, Healthy Proteins, and Sides; Breads and Spreads; and Processed and Fried. Longer average weekend sleep duration and a greater difference in weekend-to-weekday sleep duration was related to lower Vegetables, Healthy Proteins, and Sides pattern scores. Later sleep midpoint during weekdays was related to lower Vegetables, Healthy Proteins, and Sides pattern scores, whereas later sleep midpoint on the weekend was associated with higher Processed and Fried pattern scores. Similarly, a larger weekend–weekday midpoint difference was associated with higher Processed and Fried pattern scores.


      Later sleep timing and differences in sleep duration and timing from weekends to weekdays were related to less-optimal dietary pattern scores in young children.


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      E. C. Jansen is a research assistant professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor.


      K. E. Peterson is a professor and chair, Department of Nutritional Sciences, and a professor, Global Public Health, University of Michigan School of Public Health, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


      J. C. Lumeng is a professor of pediatrics and communicable diseases, University of Michigan Medical School, a professor, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health; and a research professor, Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


      N. Kaciroti is a research scientist, Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


      M. K. LeBourgeois is an associate professor, University of Colorado-Boulder, Ann Arbor.


      K. Chen is a research assistant, Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Michigan School of Public Health, Ann Arbor.


      A. L. Miller is an associate professor, Health Behavior and Health Education, School of Public Health, and a research associate professor, Center for Human Growth and Development, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.