Sleep and BMI in South African urban and rural, high and low-income preschool children

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Background: The extent to which income setting or rural and urban environments modify the association between sleep and obesity in young children is unclear. The aims of this cross-sectional observational study were to (i) describe and compare sleep in South African preschool children from rural low-income (RL), urban low-income (UL) and urban high-income (UH) settings; and (ii) test for associations between sleep parameters and body mass index (BMI). Methods: Participants were preschoolers (5.2 ± 0.7y, 49.5% boys) from RL (n = 111), UL (n = 65) and UH (n = 22) settings. Height and weight were measured. Sleep, sedentary behaviour and physical activity were assessed using accelerometery. Results: UL children had higher BMI z-scores (median: 0.39; interquartile range: − 0.27, 0.99) than the UH (− 0.38; − 0.88, 0.11) and RL (− 0.08; − 0.83, 0.53) children (p = 0.001). The UL children had later bedtimes (p < 0.001) and wake-up times (p < 0.001) and shorter 24 h (p < 0.001) and nocturnal (p < 0.001) sleep durations than the RL and UH children. After adjusting for age, sex, setting, SB and PA, for every hour less sleep obtained (24 h and nocturnal), children were 2.28 (95% CI: 1.28–4.35) and 2.22 (95% CI: 1.27–3.85) more likely, respectively, to belong to a higher BMI z-score quartile. Conclusions: Shorter sleep is associated with a higher BMI z-score in South African preschoolers, despite high levels of PA, with UL children appearing to be particularly vulnerable.




Rae, D. E., Tomaz, S. A., Jones, R. A., Hinkley, T., Twine, R., Kahn, K., … Draper, C. E. (2021). Sleep and BMI in South African urban and rural, high and low-income preschool children. BMC Public Health, 21(1).

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