Study Indicates Babies Who Sleep for Longer Without Breaks More Likely to Avoid Being Overweight in Infancy

A study has shown babies who get fewer nightly disturbances and longer periods of nighttime sleep are less likely to be overweight in their infancy.
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Last updatedLast updated: April 22, 2022
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Getting lots of sleep at night is known to provide Trusted Source 10 Reasons Why Good Sleep Is Important | Healthline Getting quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. Here are 10 evidence-based reasons why good sleep is important. www.healthline.com a wealth of benefits, including keeping your appetite in check, helping with productivity and concentration, boosting athletic performance, reducing your risk of heart disease, and more.

A new study, however, has shown that the link between sleep and health could begin much earlier in life than we realized.

Babies Getting Less Sleep & Broken Sleep Could Be More Likely to Be Overweight

The research from Massachusetts General Hospital has suggested that babies who get more sleep and fewer nightly disturbances could be at a lower risk of being overweight in infancy.

This link is already established in multiple studies Trusted Source Short Sleep Duration and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review | Obesity Society Over the past several decades, the prevalence of obesity has grown to epidemic proportions. Concurrent with this rise in weight there has been a similar epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation. onlinelibrary.wiley.com with adults when it comes to gaining weight and not getting enough sleep. However, this latest study is groundbreaking because the link has not been identified before in babies. In this study, the link was quite clearly seen between babies waking up a lot and getting less nighttime sleep and being more likely to be of weight above average during the first six months of their life.

How the Study Was Done

The study research was conducted by Massachusetts General Hospital and additional collaborators between 2016 and 2018. During this time, the lead physician – Susan Redline, a sleep and circadian disorders specialist – and her colleagues observed 298 newborn babies born at the hospital. The babies’ sleep patterns were observed using something called an ankle actigraphy watch, which was placed on the babies’ ankles. It collects data on activity patterns, and each one was in place for three days at both one month old and six months old. This was in addition to parents providing sleep information in the form of diaries listing when babies slept and woke up through the night.

The infants’ growth measurements were taken during the same time period and were measured against the WHO's standard growth charts Trusted Source Child growth standards | World Health Organisation This web site presents the WHO Child Growth Standards. These standards were developed using data collected in the WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study. www.who.int as to whether or not the child was classed as average weight or overweight for their age.

Study Results

The study results were conclusive, showing that there is a direct correlation between babies waking up in the night, having shorted nighttime sleep, and being overweight.

In fact, just one extra hour of sleep for a baby suggested that they have a massive 26% decrease in the chance of being overweight in those first six months.

The reason for the correlation between sleep and weight has not been established, but the scientists suggest that more sleep means better self-regulation for infants as well as more routine feeding, which helps avoid the desire to overeat.

Study Shortcomings

The researchers noted that African American people and families with a lower income were not represented well in the study. In addition, variables like how long babies were breastfed for was a noted factor that could well impact the growth of the babies in the study, but it was not documented as such.

Future Study Plans

The study will likely be extended in the future to examine how sleep patterns affect the growth of babies in the first two years of their life, with a focus on the key factors influencing the correlation between sleep and weight gain. As well as finding out lots of beneficial information about this topic, part of the research will be to help find out how well certain interventions are doing when it comes to promoting the best possible sleep habits in babies.

As it stands, researchers feel that the results of the study underscore how important it is for a person of any age to get adequate amounts of sleep with minimal disturbances. They request that parents speak to their doctor about recommended sleep amounts for different baby ages and the best ways to keep babies sleeping through the night.

References

1.
10 Reasons Why Good Sleep Is Important | Healthline
Getting quality sleep is one of the best things you can do for your health. Here are 10 evidence-based reasons why good sleep is important.
2.
Short Sleep Duration and Weight Gain: A Systematic Review | Obesity Society
Over the past several decades, the prevalence of obesity has grown to epidemic proportions. Concurrent with this rise in weight there has been a similar epidemic of chronic sleep deprivation.
3.
Child growth standards | World Health Organisation
This web site presents the WHO Child Growth Standards. These standards were developed using data collected in the WHO Multicentre Growth Reference Study.
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