Inadequate sleep as a risk factor for obesity: Analyses of the NHANES I

James E. Gangwisch, Dolores Malaspina, Bernadette Boden-Albala, Steven B. Heymsfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Study Objectives: Sleep deprivation has been hypothesized to contribute toward obesity by decreasing leptin, increasing ghrelin, and compromising insulin sensitivity. This study examines cross-sectional and longitudinal data from a large United States sample to determine whether sleep duration is associated with obesity and weight gain. Design: Longitudinal analyses of the 1982-1984,1987, and 1992 NHANES I Followup Studies and cross-sectional analysis of the 1982-1984 study. Setting: Probability sample of the civilian noninstitutionalized population of the United States. Participants: Sample sizes of 9,588 for the cross-sectional analyses, 8,073 for the 1987, and 6,981 for the 1992 longitudinal analyses. Measurements and Results: Measured weight in 1982-1984 and self-reported weights in 1987 and 1992. Subjects between the ages of 32 and 49 years with self-reported sleep durations at baseline less than 7 hours had higher average body mass indexes and were more likely to be obese than subjects with sleep durations of 7 hours. Sleep durations over 7 hours were not consistently associated with either an increased or decreased likelihood of obesity in the cross-sectional and longitudinal results. Each additional hour of sleep at baseline was negatively associated with change in body mass index over the follow-up period, but this association was small and statistically insignificant. Conclusions: These findings support the hypothesis that sleep duration is associated with obesity in a large longitudinally monitored United States sample. These observations support earlier experimental sleep studies and provide a basis for future studies on weight control interventions that increase the quantity and quality of sleep.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1289-1296
Number of pages8
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2005


  • Insulin resistance
  • Obesity
  • Sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Physiology (medical)


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