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Physical activity helps babies get more sleep

babies sleep more when they're more active

Babies sleep a lot. Usually between 12 and 17 hours a day. But for most parents of newborns, it never seems like enough, especially at night.

More sleep is good for parents — less exhaustion, forgetfulness, stumbling around like a zombie — and it’s really good for babies. They need all that sleep to grow and develop.

For parents who think their baby may not be getting enough sleep, new research suggests encouraging more physical activity with your baby when they’re awake during the day to help them sleep more at night.

Link between physical activity and sleep

Michigan State University’s Janet Hauck researches how physical activity, such as tummy time, affects babies as they grow and develop. As described in a recent article in MSU Today, Hauck studied a group of healthy 6-month-olds and found that the babies who got the most sleep at night were significantly more active during the day than the babies who slept less.

That includes those who slept less at night but napped more during the day. The nappers still didn’t get as many hours of total sleep as the better nighttime sleepers.

Tummy time

“The great news is, we know how to increase physical activity and motor skill development in infancy,” Hauck said. “And one of the best, tried-and-true ways is tummy time.”

Tummy time is positioning your baby on their stomach for a few minutes at a time. With your supervision and encouragement, it helps them develop their muscles and motor skills.

“Parents who feel their baby isn’t sleeping enough could promote tummy time during the day to boost their baby’s physical activity level,” Hauck said.

Tips to help babies sleep more

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

Bedtime rituals such as a bath, a book and kiss before turning out the lights can help your little one get to sleep easier and sleep more. And, as the findings of the study highlight, being more active with your baby during the day is also recommended.

“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.”

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