Associations of Early Life Risk Factors with Infant Sleep Duration

Infants whose mothers were depressed during pregnancy slept less at 6 months, 1 year, and 2 years old compared with infants whose mothers were not depressed while pregnant.

Insufficient sleep can hinder cognitive development, mood regulation and overall health in children. Understanding factors that determine sleep patterns during infancy could prevent long-term sleep problems.

This article reports on a study that analyzed potential risk factors for reduced sleep during infancy. The subjects were mothers and infants who participated in Project Viva, a study of gestational diet, pregnancy outcomes, and offspring health. Mothers reported the number of hours per day their infants slept at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years old. The authors analyzed maternal characteristics such as education level, annual household income, and pre-pregnancy BMI; other risk factors included television viewing, attending child care, and when introduction of solid foods occurred. The authors used multivariable linear regression to isolate variables that predicted or contributed to sleep duration; they examined average daytime nap and nighttime sleep durations at 6 months.

Key Findings:

  • Infants whose mothers were depressed during pregnancy slept 0.23, 0.36, and 0.38 fewer hours per day at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years, respectively, compared with infants of mothers who were not depressed during pregnancy.
  • Infants introduced to solid foods before they were 4 months old slept 0.39 and 0.22 fewer hours per day at 1 year and 2 years old.
  • At 6 months old, Black, Hispanic, and Asian infants took longer daytime naps but slept fewer hours at night compared with White infants.

This article reports risk factors for reduced sleep during infancy. Interventions to improve infant sleep patterns might address these factors.