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Unhealthy diet is associated with poor sleep in preschool-aged children


Unhealthy dietary choices are associated with poor sleep in children through adults. Yet, how diet and sleep are related in early childhood, when diet is reliant on parent choices around food availability, is unknown. The authors aimed to explore how frequency of fruit, vegetable, fast food, and soda consumption are associated with preschool children’s sleep quality. They also considered how parenting factors may impact the relationship between children’s sleep and diet. Actigraphy data were collected from 383 children 33–70 months old. Caregivers reported on child food and beverage frequency, demographics, and health items. Parenting strategies were assessed using the Parenting Scale. Multiple linear regression was used to examine associations between sleep and dietary measures with socioeconomic status, race-ethnicity, physical activity, and body mass index as covariates. Shorter nap duration was associated with more frequent consumption of fruits and vegetables (B = –3.6, p = .03). Shorter nighttime and 24-hr sleep durations were associated with more frequent consumption of fast food (B = –6.5, p = .01; B = –5.8, p = .01). Shorter nighttime sleep and later sleep onset were associated with more frequent soda consumption (B = –9.2, p = .01; B = 0.23, p = .001). Use of ineffective parenting strategies was negatively associated with fruit and vegetable consumption (r = –.29, p = .01) and positively associated with soda consumption (r = .25, p = .02) but was unrelated to sleep measures. Thus, ineffective parenting strategies may underlie child access to unhealthy foods, which, in turn, contributes to poor sleep. Encouraging healthier dietary habits and educating caregivers on how to reinforce such practices may lead to better sleep outcomes in early childhood. (author abstract)

Resource Type:
Reports & Papers
United States

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