60-Second Science

Infant Sleep Corresponds to Growth

When babies start to sleep more, chances are they're probably growing more, too. Cynthia Graber reports

Parents wring their hands over infant sleep patterns. And so when those patterns change, parents tend to panic. But if your baby is sleeping more or napping at weird times, maybe he or she is just growing. So says a study in the journal Sleep. [Michelle Lampl and Michael Johnson, "Infant Growth in Length Follows Prolonged Sleep and Increased Naps"]

It’s known that levels of growth hormone rise during certain stages of sleep. So researchers wanted to know more about the link between sleep and growth. They recruited the parents of 23 infants. The parents took careful real-time notes on infant sleep patterns for between four and 17 months. They also noted whether the babies were breast- or bottle-fed, and whether they had signs of illness such as rashes or diarrhea. And the babies’ body length and weight were measured regularly.

The researchers found that periods where infants slept more overall corresponded with growth spurts and also a gain in weight and body fat. Both genders experienced that correlation, though boys had more and shorter sleep episodes than girls. The scientists note that increases in sleep may lead to increases in waking, as growing bones produce growing pains. So if your baby’s sleeping a little funny, maybe she’s just growing up.

—Cynthia Graber

[The above text is an exact transcript of this podcast.]

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