Insufficient sleep in newborns linked to childhood obesity; Study

By Shilpa Annie Joseph, Desk Reporter
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According to a study published in the Sleep Journal, newborns who sleep longer and wake up less during the night are less likely to be overweight in infancy.

“While an association between insufficient sleep and weight gain is well-established in adults and older children, this link has not been previously recognized in infants,” said study co-author Dr. Susan Redline, MD, MPH, senior physician in the Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at the Brigham.

“In this study, we found that not only shorter nighttime sleep, but more sleep awakenings, were associated with a higher likelihood of infants becoming overweight in the first six months of life,” Dr. Redline added.

Dr. Redline and colleagues observed 298 newborns born at Massachusetts General Hospital between 2016 and 2018 for this study. They next tracked their sleep habits with ankle actigraphy watches, which measure activity and rest patterns over several days.

Scientists evaluated the height and weight of infants and calculated their BMI to collect growth data. 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. Further, 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 speculated that getting more sleep promoted routine feeding practices and self-regulation, factors that mitigated overeating.

“This study underscores the importance of healthy sleep at all ages. 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,” noted Dr. Redline.

Related: Moving more often is beneficial for weight loss in older adults; Study