Can body temperature dysregulation explain the co-occurrence between overweight/obesity, sleep impairment, late-night eating, and a sedentary lifestyle?

  • Rhonda F. Brown
  • Einar B. Thorsteinsson
  • Michael Smithson
  • C. Laird Birmingham
  • Hessah Aljarallah
  • Christopher Nolan
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Sleep and Obesity



Overweight/obesity, sleep disturbance, night eating, and a sedentary lifestyle are common co-occurring problems. There is a tendency for them to co-occur together more often than they occur alone. In some cases, there is clarity as to the time course and evolution of the phenomena. However, specific mechanism(s) that are proposed to explain a single co-occurrence cannot fully explain the more generalized tendency to develop concurrent symptoms and/or disorders after developing one of the phenomena. Nor is there a clinical theory with any utility in explaining the development of co-occurring symptoms, disorders and behaviour and the mechanism(s) by which they occur. Thus, we propose a specific mechanism—dysregulation of core body temperature (CBT) that interferes with sleep onset—to explain the development of the concurrences.


A detailed review of the literature related to CBT and the phenomena that can alter CBT or are altered by CBT is provided.


Overweight/obesity, sleep disturbance and certain behaviour (e.g. late-night eating, sedentarism) were linked to elevated CBT, especially an elevated nocturnal CBT. A number of existing therapies including drugs (e.g. antidepressants), behavioural therapies (e.g. sleep restriction therapy) and bright light therapy can also reduce CBT.


An elevation in nocturnal CBT that interferes with sleep onset can parsimoniously explain the development and perpetuation of common co-occurring symptoms, disorders and behaviour including overweight/obesity, sleep disturbance, late-night eating, and sedentarism. Nonetheless, a significant correlation between CBT and the above symptoms, disorders and behaviour does not necessarily imply causation. Thus, statistical and methodological issues of relevance to this enquiry are discussed including the likely presence of autocorrelation.

Level of evidence

Level V, narrative review.


Comorbidity Co-occurrence Overweight/obesity Sleep disturbance Core body temperature Late-night eating Sedentarism 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, there is no conflict of interest at all in regards to the submitted publication. That is, no author has a financial or personal relationship with a third party whose interests could be positively or negatively influenced by the article’s content.


This research paper was not supported by a funding source.

Human and animal participants

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or involving animals performed by any of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Crown Copyright  2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rhonda F. Brown
    • 1
  • Einar B. Thorsteinsson
    • 2
  • Michael Smithson
    • 1
  • C. Laird Birmingham
    • 3
  • Hessah Aljarallah
    • 1
  • Christopher Nolan
    • 1
  1. 1.The Australian National UniversityCanberraAustralia
  2. 2.School of Behavioural, Cognitive and Social Sciences PsychologyUniversity of New EnglandArmidaleAustralia
  3. 3.University of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

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