Baby waking a lot during the night? Inactivity might be the cause

Baby not sleeping much during the night? Why not try this.
Baby not sleeping much during the night? Why not try this. Photo: SHUTTERSTOCK

Could there be a simple way of getting your bub to clock a few more hours of sleep each night? While the short answer is "probably not", a new study suggests that it might be worth trying a little extra tummy time.

The research, published in the journal Infant Behaviour and Development  found that babies who slept less over a 24 hour period, (including naps) were significantly less active during the day.

"We know physical activity and sleep influence each other and are strongly associated with growth in older children and adults," said lead author Ms Janet Hauck. "Our findings suggest that this association could emerge as early as infancy, a critical developmental period."

As part of the study, researchers from Michigan State University studied the sleep and activity levels of 22 six-month-old babies. When they analysed the findings, the team found that babies who clocked fewer hours of sleep in a one-day period had the least amount of nighttime sleep and more overnight feedings. And - most importantly - they were less active during the day. 

In addition, bubs who slept longer than 12 hours in a day had better weight-for-length scores (around the 53rd percentile) than those who slept fewer than 12 hours.

"Parents can make 12 hours of sleep or more a priority for their baby by creating a bedtime routine and being consistent with it," Ms 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."

The researchers acknowledge that further research is needed with more infants, but note that the findings could have important implications.

"While we don't have evidence yet that tummy time directly affects sleep, it increases physical activity and promotes healthy weight gain," Ms 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." 

It's certainly be worth a try.