Insomnia symptoms and sleep duration and their combined effects in relation to associations with obesity and central obesity

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Objective: Previous studies have shown that both sleep duration and insomnia have an impact on obesity and central obesity. However, studies of the joint effects of these sleep disorders are still sparse. Methods: The present study utilized data from the Swedish EpiHealth cohort study. Participants (45–78 y) were asked to fill out an internet-based questionnaire. Body mass index (BMI) and central obesity (calculated from waist circumference) were based on measured data. Results: A total of 18,823 participants (mean age = 60 ys) were included in this study. The reported prevalence of short (<6 h/night) and long (>9 h/night) sleep duration was 8% and 4% respectively, and insomnia symptoms was 19%. Of the study population, 16% were obese (BMI ≥ 30 kg/m2) and 40% had central obesity. There was a U-shaped association between sleep duration and obesity and central obesity, and significant associations between insomnia symptoms and obesity. When stratifying sleep duration by concurrent insomnia symptoms, there were associations (odds ratios, (95% confidence intervals)) between the combination of both short (1.48, (1.22–1.80)) and long sleep duration (1.77 (1.00–3.16)) with insomnia symptoms and obesity and central obesity (1.36 (1.16–1.61) and 2.44 (1.41–3.24) respectively). However, there was no significant association between insomnia symptoms and obesity or central obesity in participants with normal sleep duration. For central obesity there was an association with long sleep duration regardless of insomnia symptoms, while the association with short sleep duration was significant only if insomnia symptoms were present. Conclusions: Both short and long sleep duration, as well as insomnia symptoms, are associated with obesity and central obesity. There is an important joint effect of sleep duration and insomnia symptoms and there is no association between insomnia symptoms and obesity, as long as a normal sleeping time can be attained. This indicates that sleep duration rather than insomnia symptoms per se is of importance for the relationship between sleep and obesity.


  • Gui Hong Cai
  • Jenny Theorell-Haglöw
  • Christer Janson
  • Magnus Svartengren
  • Sölve Elmståhl
  • Lars Lind
  • Eva Lindberg
External organisations
  • Uppsala University
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Health and Occupational Health


  • Body mass index (BMI), EpiHealth study, Insomnia symptoms, Obesity, Sleep duration, Waist circumference
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)81-87
Number of pages7
JournalSleep Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Jun 1
Publication categoryResearch