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Epidemiology and Population Health

Association between objectively measured sleep duration, adiposity and weight loss history



An association between sleep and obesity has been suggested in several studies, but many previous studies relied on self-reported sleep and on BMI as the only adiposity measure. Moreover, a relationship between weight loss history and attained sleep duration has not been thoroughly explored.


The study comprised of 1202 participants of the European NoHoW trial who had achieved a weight loss of ≥5% and had a BMI of ≥25 kg/m2 prior to losing weight. Information was available on objectively measured sleep duration (collected during 14 days), adiposity measures, weight loss history and covariates. Regression models were conducted with sleep duration as the explanatory variable and BMI, fat mass index (FMI), fat-free mass index (FFMI) and waist-hip ratio (WHR) as response variables. Analyses were conducted with 12-month weight loss, frequency of prior weight loss attempts or average duration of weight maintenance after prior weight loss attempts as predictors of measured sleep duration.


After adjusting for physical activity, perceived stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, education, sex and age, sleep duration was associated to BMI (P < 0.001), with the highest BMI observed in the group of participants sleeping <6 h a day [34.0 kg/m2 (95% CI: 31.8–36.1)]. Less difference in BMI was detected between the remaining groups, with the lowest BMI observed among participants sleeping 8–<9 h a day [29.4 kg/m2 (95% CI: 28.8–29.9)]. Similar results were found for FMI (P = 0.008) and FFMI (P < 0.001). We found no association between sleep duration and WHR. Likewise, we found no associations between weight loss history and attained sleep duration.


In an overweight population who had achieved a clinically significant weight loss, short sleep duration was associated with higher BMI, with similar associations for fat and lean mass. We found no evidence of association between weight loss history and attained sleep duration.

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Fig. 1: Association between sleep duration and adiposity measures.


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The NoHoW study has received founding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation Programme (grant agreement number: 643309). The Parker Institute is supported by a core grant from the Oak Foundation (grant agreement number: OCAY-18-774-OFIL).

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Correspondence to Sofus C. Larsen.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

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The study was conducted in accordance with the Helsinki Declaration. Ethical approval has been granted by local institutional ethics committees at the Universities of Leeds (17-0082; 27-Feb-2017), Lisbon (17/2016; 20-Feb-2017) and the Capital Region of Denmark (H-16030495; 8-Mar-2017).

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Larsen, S.C., Horgan, G., Mikkelsen, ML.K. et al. Association between objectively measured sleep duration, adiposity and weight loss history. Int J Obes 44, 1577–1585 (2020).

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