Infant obesity risks may be reduced through proper sleep

Sleeping proves to be one of the major factors that improves health and the same is true in case of infants as well with a study showing that infants that sleep regularly are at a lower risk of obesity.

New research from investigators at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital and collaborators suggests that in study published in Sleep, that there could be a relation between insufficient sleep and weight gain is well-established in adults and older children.

Researchers observed 298 newborns born at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2016 and 2018. They then monitored their sleep patterns using ankle actigraphy watches — devices that measure patterns of activity and rest over multiple days. Researchers extracted three nights’ worth of data at the one- and six-month marks while parents kept sleep diaries, recording their children’s sleep and wake episodes.

To collect growth measurements, scientists measured infant height and weight and determined their body mass index. Infants were classified as overweight if they fell into or above the 95th percentile on the World Health Organization’s growth charts.

Notably, researchers found that just one additional hour of sleep correlated with a 26 percent decrease in infants’ risk of being overweight. In addition, infants that woke up less throughout the night faced a lower risk of excess weight gain. While it’s unclear exactly why this correlation exists, scientists speculate that getting more sleep promotes routine feeding practices and self-regulation, factors that mitigate overeating.

Investigators note that African American individuals and families of lower socioeconomic statuses were underrepresented in their dataset. Additionally, confounding variables, such as breastfeeding duration, could have impacted infant growth. In the future, the researchers aim to extend this study to evaluate how sleep patterns impact growth within the first two years of life and identify key factors that mediate the correlation between sleep and weight gain. They also aim to evaluate interventions for promoting healthy sleep habits.

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