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Sleep is an important part of the growth process for infants but getting an infant to sleep when you need them to, is often problematic. Sleep problems during the infant stage might have a notable impact on a child’s life when they grow up.

Brigham and Women’s Hospital researchers conducted a study that points out how sleep problems that infants experience while young, cause disproportionate effects based on different ethnic, racial, and social-economic factors. Researchers observed the sleep and wake cycles of infants and they found notable differences in sleep patterns depending on racial and social-economic backgrounds.

Dr. Susan Redline who works at the division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders at Brigham hospital was one of the study’s senior authors. She noted that the researchers were already aware that individuals from poor social-economic situations sleep fewer hours than their counterparts from well-off backgrounds. The researchers were however not sure when the differences start to emerge.

The researchers enrolled 306 human infants in the study. 32.7 percent were Hispanic, 7.5 percent black, 17.3 percent Asian and 42.5 percent were non-Hispanic white. The infants were enrolled as early as 1 month old although they ranged to 6 months old. The researchers observed during the study duration that there was a 65.7-minute increase in sleep duration while the night awakenings dropped by 2.2 episodes. The scientists concluded from the data that infant sleep increases during the night while day sleep reduces as they grow in the first six months.

Researchers observed interesting distinct differences

According to the study, Hispanic and black infants experienced smaller sleep increments during the first six months compared to white and Asian children. Asian infants woke up more frequently at night than infants from any other category. Infants from mothers with low education demonstrated a lower sleep increment at night.

The research also showed that Asian infants were the only ones out of every other racial group that continued to experience sleep deficit at night, after adjusting to social-economic conditions. Dr. Redline stated that sleep differences and deficiencies in early childhood may contribute to development of various risk factors that manifest as they grow up.