Sleep duration and physical function in people with severe obesity: a prospective cross-sectional study

  • Tomás Ahern
  • Emer O’Malley
  • Colin Dunlevy
  • Aftab Khattak
  • Helen O’BrienEmail author
  • Tidi Hassan
  • Tara Cusack
  • Walter T. McNicholas
  • Donal O’Shea
Original Article



Subjects with severe obesity (BMI > 40 kg/m2) have worse physical function and sleep less than lean people (BMI 18.5–25 kg/m2).


In 554 subjects with severe obesity, we compared physical function in those with normal sleep duration (NSD, 6–9 h/night), short sleep duration (SSD, ≤ 6 h/night) and long sleep duration (LSD, ≥ 9 h/night).


The mean (±SD) age and BMI were 43.1 (± 11.1) years and 50.9 ± 8.6 kg/m2 respectively. One hundred ninety-six (35.4%) were male. More subjects in the NSD group (n = 256) were able to ascend and descend a step 50 times than in the SSD group (n = 247) or the LSD group (n = 51, 75.5% vs 62.8% vs 56.9%, p = 0.002). A similar observation was made for step speed (0.45 ± 0.11 vs 0.43 ± 0.10 vs 0.40 ± 0.11 steps/s respectively, p = 0.001). NSD participants were less likely to have fallen in the preceding year compared to LSD participants (21.1% vs 39.2%, p = 0.007) and also reported less low back pain compared to SSD participants (60.8% vs 75.9%, p = 0.004).


In conclusion, abnormal sleep duration is associated with reduced physical function in non-elderly severely obese subjects. The effects of sleep hygiene interventions in this cohort warrant further assessment and may be beneficial to their physical function.


Physical function Severe obesity Sleep 


Funding information

This work was supported by grants provided by the Health Research Board of Ireland [HPF/2010/37 to TA] and by the Irish Heart Foundation [0993704 to TA].

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki Declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Statement of informed consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Royal Academy of Medicine in Ireland 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Weight Management ServiceSt Columcille’s HospitalLoughlinstownIreland
  2. 2.Obesity Research Group, Education and Research CentreSt Vincent’s University HospitalDublin 4Ireland
  3. 3.Department of EndocrinologyOur Lady of Lourdes HospitalDroghedaIreland
  4. 4.Department of Respiratory MedicineOur Lady of Lourdes HospitalDroghedaIreland
  5. 5.School of Public Health, Physiotherapy and Sports Science, Health Sciences CentreUniversity College DublinDublin 4Ireland
  6. 6.Department of Respiratory and Sleep MedicineSt Vincent’s University HospitalDublin 4Ireland

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