Objective: To examine the bidirectional effects of objectively measured nighttime sleep and sedentary activity among toddlers.
Method: Actical accelerometer data were analyzed for 195 toddlers participating in an obesity prevention trial (mean age = 27 months). Toddlers wore the accelerometers for up to 7 consecutive days. Nighttime sleep was defined as the number of minutes asleep between the hours of 8 pm and 8 am the following morning. Sedentary behavior (in minutes) was defined using previously established Actical cut points for toddlers. Variables were lagged and parsed into latent within- and between-person components, using dynamic structural equation modeling (DSEM).
Results: Toddlers spent an average of 172 min (∼3 hr) in sedentary activity and slept an average of 460 min (∼8 hr) per night. An autoregressive cross-lagged multilevel model revealed significant autoregression for both sleep and sedentary activity. Cross-lagged values revealed that decreased sleep predicted increased next-day sedentary activity, and sedentary activity predicted that night's sleep. For 89% of the sample, the within-person standardized cross-lagged effects of sleep on sedentary were larger than the cross-lagged effects of sedentary on sleep.
Conclusions: Results suggest that, on average, nighttime sleep is a stronger predictor of subsequent sedentary behavior (compared with the reverse), and this is the case for the majority of toddlers. Findings highlight the importance of interindividual associations between sleep and sedentary activity. The present study is an example of how DSEM methods can be used to ask questions about Granger-causal cross-lagged relations between variables, both within and between individuals.