Babies sleep a lot, but parents often worry when their infant starts sleeping even more than usual. New research shows that the extra shut-eye is nothing to worry about; it just means your baby is growing. A new study published in the May 2011 issue of the journal Sleep found that babies sleep longer right before a growth spurt.
Researchers at Emory University in Atlanta analyzed more than 5,500 daily sleep records kept by the parents of 23 infants. When the sleep cycle data for each infant was compared to the child’s growth records, researchers discovered that babies exhibited measurable growth spurts within 48 hours of increasing the amount of time they spent sleeping. Over a 48-hour period, growing infants increased their total daily sleep amount by an average 4.5 hours.
During growth spurts, not only did infants sleep longer each time they napped; but growing babies took more naps, as many as 3 additional naps per day. Sleep increased at uneven intervals unique to each child. Changed sleeping patterns usually lasted about 48 hours, with measurable growth in the baby’s body length occurring immediately after each sleep burst.
While the cause of the relationship between increased sleep and infant growth was not definitively determined, researchers did note that the body secretes more growth hormone during sleep.