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Long Daytime Naps May Stunt Babies’ Development

Sarah Shoen

Written by

Sarah Shoen, PR Specialist

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How babies sleep dictates how their brains develop and grow. A recently published study finds that too much daytime sleep and too little nighttime sleep may prevent them from reaching age-appropriate mental, language, and physical developmental milestones by age 2.

Between 2014 and 2017, researchers from Wuhan, China, asked more than 2,000 mothers to report their babies’ sleep patterns. Researchers re-assessed after one, six, 12, and 24 months, ultimately focusing on 2-year-olds’ development of:

  • Cognitive and language skills;
  • Fine motor skills, or those using smaller body muscles in the fingers, hands, and wrists); and
  • Gross motor skills, or those using larger body muscles such as those in the torso, arms, and legs.

Using “scores” to measure children’s development, researchers noted lower mental- and motor-development in 2-year-olds who had slept 20 or more hours of sleep in a 24-hour period or who received 10 or more hours of daytime sleep at 1 month. Results showed that nighttime sleep of seven or fewer hours among 6-month-olds linked strongly to lower scores, as well.

Sleeping baby on a bed
Study results identified lower average mental- and motor-development scores when children slept:

  • More than 20 hours over 24 hours, or more than 10 hours a day, at 1 month old
  • Less than seven hours a night at 6 months old
  • Less than 11 hours over 24 hours, or less than four hours a day, at 1 year old

As parents experience the evolution of baby sleep patterns, they may notice that adult sleep patterns are different from their babies. Babies may start sleeping in spurts during the day as well as at night. Over time, however, babies begin to sleep less during the day and for longer periods at night. A newborn, for example, may need as much as 17 hours of sleep per day in the first three months of life. Infants ages 4 to 11 months may require up to 15 hours.

Researcher Dr. Wei Xia says that most sleep-length changes occur before a baby’s first birthday, which suggests that sleep lengths during this early period of life impact a baby’s brain development.

As babies age, they establish their internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, which helps them know when to be asleep and awake. Some parents use various methods of sleep training to help babies know when to sleep.

Because babies are not developmentally ready to sleep-train until they are 4 to 6 months old, the first months of a baby’s life can be challenging while developing healthy sleep schedules.

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About Our Editorial Team

Sarah Shoen

PR Specialist

Sarah has covered news topics for digital and print publications. She has a degree in broadcast journalism from the University of Nevada.


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