Food Insecurity is Associated with Objectively Measured Sleep Problems

Wendy M. Troxel, Ann Haas, Bonnie Ghosh-Dastidar, Andrea S. Richardson, Lauren Hale, Daniel J. Buysse, Matthew P. Buman, Jonathan Kurka, Tamara Dubowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Objective/Background: Food Insecurity (FI) can be a profound source of stress, which may increase the risk for sleep disturbance. This is the first study to examine the association between FI and objectively and subjectively measured sleep. Participants: The sample included 785 adults living in two low-income neighborhoods (mean age = 56; 95% African American). Methods: FI was measured using a validated 10-item survey that assesses conditions and behaviors that characterize households when they lack financial resources to meet basic food needs. Sleep duration, efficiency, wakefulness after sleep onset (WASO), and variability in sleep duration were measured via actigraphy. Sleep quality was assessed via sleep diary. Sleep outcomes were analyzed as a function of FI, adjusting for covariates. Psychological distress was tested as a potential mediator. Results: Greater FI was associated with shorter actigraphy-assessed sleep duration (B = −2.44; SE = 1.24; i.e., 24 minutes shorter for the most as compared to least insecure group), poorer sleep efficiency (B = −.27; SE = .13); p’s < .05), and poorer subjective sleep quality (B = −.03; SE = .01; p < .01). Greater FI was also associated with greater likelihood of short (<7 hours; OR = 1.11; CI: 1.02–1.21) and long sleep (>9 hours; OR = 1.19; CI: 1.01–1.39), compared to the recommended sleep duration of 7–9 hours. Psychological distress partially mediated the association between FI and subjective sleep quality. Conclusions: Addressing or mitigating food insecurity may present a novel opportunity for improving sleep health among low-income populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)719-729
Number of pages11
JournalBehavioral Sleep Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience (miscellaneous)
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Clinical Neurology


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