We investigate whether differences in sleep duration help explain ethnic disparities in body mass index (BMI) among US adolescents. We also evaluate the functional form of the association between sleep duration and BMI, and investigate whether this association varies by sex and ethnicity.PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS:
We analyzed restricted-use data from the first two waves of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (n = 30 133) to evaluate linear and quadratic associations between sleep duration and BMI. Through a series of models that incorporated interaction terms between sex, ethnicity and sleep duration, we also assessed whether (1) sleep duration mediates associations between ethnicity and BMI, and (2) associations between sleep duration and BMI differ for girls and boys from different ethnic groups.RESULTS:
A linear association between sleep duration and BMI best fits the data in this large sample of US adolescents. We find no evidence that sleep duration contributes substantially to ethnic disparities in BMI. However, we detect significant differences in the association between sleep duration and BMI by sex and ethnicity. Sleep duration is negatively associated with BMI among White, Hispanic and Asian boys, positively associated with BMI among Black girls and is not related to BMI among Black boys or girls from White, Hispanic or Asian ethnic groups.CONCLUSIONS:
Despite significant associations between sleep duration and BMI for certain groups of adolescents, we find no evidence that ethnic differences in sleep duration exacerbate ethnic disparities in BMI. Future research should explore mechanisms that underlie ethnic differences in the association between sleep and BMI.