Does your baby’s sleep have anything to do with their weight?

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, says a study from the Rise and SHINE (Sleep Health in Infancy & Early Childhood), supported by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI), part of the National Institutes of Health, USA.

Researchers say that the sleep-obesity association across the lifespan appears in infancy and may be predictive of future health outcomes. 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 behaviour. Researchers observed 298 newborns and found that for every hourly increase in night-time sleep, measured between 7 p.m. and 8 a.m., the infants were 26% less likely to become overweight. Likewise, for each reduction in night-time awakening, they were 16% less likely to become overweight. The researchers suspect a few factors could explain these results: Some parents may soothe infants who have trouble sleeping by providing milk or introducing them to solid foods. Also, if an infant was not getting enough high-quality sleep at night, they could have felt hungry and tired the next day – leading to more eating and less movement, which in turn could contribute to the infant’s weight. Hence, sufficient and consolidated sleep could be a powerful tool in reducing obesity risks early in life. The research shows that sleep health is important not just for adults, but for people of all ages.