For parents of infants, getting a full night of sleep can be a nearly impossible task. Despite several tips and soothing methods, newborns and their parents are left with many sleepless nights and exhausted mornings.
Now, new research from Michigan State University found that infants that don’t get enough physical activity could also be sleeping less. These babies could also be at a greater risk for developing obesity if they’re too sedentary.
“We know physical activity and sleep influence each other and are strongly associated with growth in older children and adults,” said researcher Janet Hauck. “Our findings suggest that this association could emerge as early as infancy, a critical development period.”
Keeping babies active
The researchers monitored 22 six-month old infants over the course of 24 hours and evaluated their length, weight, physical activity, and sleeping patterns.
Hauck and her team found that the babies who had the least amount of sleep over the course of the 24 hours weren’t moving as much during the day and were also getting fed more overnight. Moreover, they found that babies had a better length to weight ratio when they slept for 12 or more hours during the day.
The team found that napping proved to have no effect on nighttime sleep. Babies that slept more during the day were still not getting enough sleep overnight.
“Parents can make 12 hours of sleep or more a priority for their baby by creating a bedtime routine and being consistent with it,” Hauck said. “While their little one is awake they should encourage physical activity by interacting with their baby during floor time activities and do supervised tummy time several times a day.”
Speaking of tummy time, Hauck and the researchers say that ensuring infants are more active during the day can instill better sleeping habits.
“While we don’t have evidence yet that tummy time directly affects sleep, it increases physical activity and promotes healthy weight gain,” Hauck said. “So, parents who feel their baby isn’t sleeping enough could promote tummy time during the day to boost their baby’s physical activity level.”
Promoting better sleeping habits
Ensuring infants sleep through the night is hardly ever easy, and many parents struggle figure out exactly which changes they should make to promote better sleep.
In a previous study, researchers found that letting babies “cry it out” during sleep training may not be as harmful as many had previously thought.
The study found that parents that sleep trained their babies -- regardless of the method they chose -- allowed them to fall asleep faster and wake up less during the night.