Study: Newborns who sleep better are less likely to be overweight

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A new study found that newborns who sleep more soundly are less likely to grow into overweight infants. Photo by PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

Newborns who sleep longer and consistently through the night are less likely to be overweight in infancy, a new study has found.

The study, published in the journal Sleep, is based on observations of 298 newborns at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2016 and 2018.

Researchers monitored their sleep patterns using ankle actigraphy watches, which measure rest and activity over several days, pulling three days’ worth of data at the newborns’ one-month and six-month marks. Parents also kept sleep diaries for their children.

Researchers determined each infant’s body mass index, and there were classified as overweight if they were at or above the 95th percentile of World Health Organization’s growth charts.

The study concluded that just one additional hour of sleep correlated with a 26% decrease in infants’ risk of being overweight. Additionally, infants that woke up less during the night faced a lower risk of excess weight gain.

“This study underscores the importance of healthy sleep at all ages,” Dr. Susan Redline, a senior physician in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and co-author of the study, said in a statement.

“Parents should consult their pediatricians on the best practices to promote healthy sleep, like keeping consistent sleep schedules, providing a dark and quiet space for sleeping, and avoiding having bottles in bed,” Redline said.

Researchers were unsure about reason for the correlation, but suspect that additional sleep promotes routine feeding practices and infant self-regulation, both of which help prevent overeating.

However, researchers also noted that African American and lower socioeconomic families were underrepresented in the data. Other variables, such as breastfeeding duration, could have impacted infants’ growth.

Researchers intend to extend the study to look at how sleep patterns affect infants’ growth within the first two years of life. They also seek to understand the relationship between sleep and weight gain with an eye on interventions that promote healthy rest habits.


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