Food insecurity is associated with suboptimal sleep quality, but not sleep duration, among low-income Head Start children of pre-school age

Muzi Na, Sally G. Eagleton, Lamis Jomaa, Kristen Lawton, Jennifer S. Savage

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: To examine the association between food insecurity and child sleep outcomes and to investigate whether parent psychosocial factors mediate such associations.Design: Cross-sectional study. Usual wake time and bedtime, bedtime routine and sleep quality were reported by parents using the adapted Brief Infant Sleep Questionnaire. Food insecurity was assessed using the eighteen-item US Department of Agriculture Household Food Security Module. Parent psychosocial factors, including perceived stress, parenting self-efficacy and depressive symptomology, were assessed using validated scales. Multivariable logistic regression models were performed to determine the association between food insecurity and sleep outcomes controlling for potential confounders. Mediation analyses and Sobel tests were applied to test the mediating effect of psychosocial factors.Setting: Head Start pre-school classrooms in four regions across central Pennsylvania, USA.Participants: Low-income children of pre-school age (n 362) and their caregivers.Results: Prevalence of household, adult and child food insecurity was 37·3, 31·8 and 17·7 %, respectively. Food security status at any level was not associated with child sleep duration or bedtime routine. Child food insecurity, but not household or adult food insecurity, was associated with 2·25 times increased odds (95 % CI 1·11, 4·55) of poor child sleep quality in the adjusted model. Perceived stress, self-efficacy and depressive symptomology mediated less than 2 % of the observed effect (all Sobel test P > 0·6).Conclusion: Food insecurity, particularly at the child level, is a potential modifiable risk factor for reducing sleep-related health disparities in early childhood. Future studies are needed to explore the plausible mechanisms underlying the associations between food insecurity and adverse child sleep outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)701-710
Number of pages10
JournalPublic Health Nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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