Infants who sleep longer through the night and with fewer interruptions may be less likely to become overweight during their first six months of life, according to a study published in the journal SLEEP. While the research only showed a link – not a cause-effect relationship – between infants’ sleep and weight, the findings suggest that newborns may reap some of the same health benefits that others get from consistent, quality shut-eye.
“What is particularly interesting about this research is that the sleep-obesity association we see across the lifespan appears in infancy and may be predictive of future health outcomes,” said Marishka K. Brown, Ph.D., director of the National Center on Sleep Disorders Research, located within the NHLBI. Brown noted that multiple studies have shown links between good sleep and improved health. For children, this includes a reduced risk of developing obesity and diabetes, while supporting development, learning, and behavior.
In this study, researchers observed sleep patterns of 298 newborns and found that for every hourly increase in nighttime sleep, measured between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m., the infants were 26% less likely to become overweight. Likewise, for each reduction in nighttime awakening, they were 16% less likely to become overweight. The study was supported by NHLBI, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, and the Health Resources Services Administration.