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30-07-2012 | Psychology | Article

Sleep problems linked to binge eating in women


Free abstract

MedWire News: Sleep problems are significantly associated with binge eating (BE) in women, study results show.

The team found that not getting enough sleep, sleeping poorly, difficulty falling asleep, disturbed sleep, and daytime sleepiness were all significantly associated with an increased risk for BE in women.

"Although definitive conclusions regarding the pathways underlying the association between sleep problems and BE cannot be drawn, future interventions targeting the association between sleep problems and BE may interrupt a vicious hormonal and metabolic cycle, having significant implications both at an individual and a public health level," comment Cynthia Bulik (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA) and team.

The researchers assessed data on 3790 women, aged 20-47 years, who participated in the population-based Swedish Twin study of Twin Adults: Genes and Environment (STAGE).

All of the participants completed questionnaires on current sleep habits and problems, and the presence of BE was assessed using an instrument based on the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM-IV.

In total, 244 (6.4%) women met criteria for BE, the team reports in the International Journal of Eating Disorders.

After accounting for age, current cohabiting status, and lifetime depression diagnosis, the team found that BE was significantly associated with not getting enough sleep (odds ratio [OR]=2.36), sleeping poorly (OR=5.80), problems falling asleep (OR=4.43), feeling sleepy during work or free time (OR=2.05), and disturbed sleep (OR=5.07).

These variables, plus daytime napping and "being a night person," were also associated with being obese (body mass index =30 kg/m2, n=228). However, the association between sleep problems and BE remained significant after accounting for obesity.

"This study provides empirical support for an association between sleep problems and lifetime BE," comment Bulik et al.

They suggest that the nature of the association is likely to be complex. Sleep problems may lead to BE or vice versa, or both sleep problems and BE may be the result of a third variable or variables, such as environmental stressors or underlying biologic mechanisms.

Nevertheless, the researchers conclude: "It is not premature for health care professionals to screen for both sleep problems and BE in clinical settings where individuals struggle with either problem, and optimally efficacious obesity interventions should address BE in addition to sleep hygiene."

MedWire ( is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2012

By Mark Cowen, Senior MedWire Reporter

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