Maternal depression, breastfeeding and a lower socioeconomic status can affect infants' sleep

June 09, 2008

WESTCHESTER, Ill. - Maternal depression during pregnancy, breastfeeding and a lower socioeconomic status are all associated with less infant sleep duration in the first six months of life, according to a research abstract that will be presented on Monday at SLEEP 2008, the 22nd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies (APSS).

The study, authored by Michael D. Nevarez, of Harvard Medical School, focused on 1,676 mother-infant pairs, where the mothers reported their infants' average 24-hour sleep duration at six months. Also examined were daytime nap and nighttime sleep duration separately.

According to the results, infants' mean sleep duration at six months, including daytime naps and nighttime sleep, was 12.2 hours per day. Less household income and lower maternal education were associated with shorter infant sleep duration. Compared with Caucasian infants, African-American infants slept 0.94 fewer total hours per day. Also, African-American, Hispanic, and Asian infants slept more hours during daytime naps but fewer hours at night. Infants whose mothers had a history of depression during pregnancy and those who were being breast-fed at six months appeared to sleep fewer total hours per day.

"Previous studies have shown links between sleep loss in children and its potential negative effects on health outcomes, such as overweight status and cognitive development," said Nevarez. "Given this adverse relationship, we felt that it was critical to explore factors that may influence the sleep of children at much younger ages, namely within the first six months of life. As any parent knows, an infant's sleep can seem anything but predictable during this period, yet, our study observed a number of notable associations. Perhaps most striking were the relationships between infants' sleep and their socioeconomic and racial/ethnic backgrounds. As with other complex pediatric conditions such as obesity, the amount of sleep children obtain, even during infancy, may have larger socioeconomic and cultural contexts that warrant consideration."

It is recommended that infants get 14-15 hours of nightly sleep.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) offers some tips to help your infant sleep better: Parents who suspect that their infant might be suffering from a sleep disorder are encouraged to consult with a pediatrician or a sleep specialist.
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The annual SLEEP meeting brings together an international body of 5,000 leading researchers and clinicians in the field of sleep medicine to present and discuss new findings and medical developments related to sleep and sleep disorders.

More than 1,000 research abstracts will be presented at the SLEEP meeting, a joint venture of the AASM and the Sleep Research Society. The three-and-a-half-day scientific meeting will bring to light new findings that enhance the understanding of the processes of sleep and aid the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy and sleep apnea.

SleepEducation.com, a patient education Web site created by the AASM, provides information about various sleep disorders, the forms of treatment available, recent news on the topic of sleep, sleep studies that have been conducted and a listing of sleep facilities.

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

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