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Newborns with higher hair cortisol levels take longer to fall asleep

Results suggest that cortisol levels in late pregnancy can predict infant sleep at 7 months of age

2023-05-30
(Press-News.org) DARIEN, IL – Cortisol levels in late pregnancy can predict the sleep of infants, according to a new study to be presented at the SLEEP 2023 annual meeting. 

Results show that newborns with higher levels of cortisol in their hair samples took longer to fall asleep at 7 months of age. Neonatal hair cortisol is a measure of fetal cortisol in the last trimester of pregnancy. 

“Although increases in cortisol across pregnancy are normal and important for preparing the fetus for birth, our findings suggest that higher cortisol levels during late pregnancy could predict the infant having trouble falling asleep,” said lead co-author Melissa Nevarez-Brewster, graduate student at the University of Denver. “We are excited to conduct future studies to better understand this link.” 

The researchers collected hair cortisol from 70 infants in the first days after birth; 57% of the infants were female. Parents then completed a sleep questionnaire when their child was 7 months old. Analyses covaried for gestational age at birth and family income-to-needs ratio. 

Tessa Benefield, lead co-author and research staff, noted that it will be important for future research to further study potential long-term effects of fetal cortisol production on sleep health through infancy into childhood. 

“The results indicate that there may be prenatal influences on sleep health early in life, pointing to the need to better understand what factors may set the stage for better sleep health in infancy and beyond,” she said. 

This study was supported by funding from the National Institutes of Health. The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented Tuesday, June 6, during SLEEP 2023 in Indianapolis. SLEEP is the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. 

### 

Abstract Title: Newborn hair cortisol and sleep health in infancy 

Abstract ID: 0121 
Poster Presentation Date: Tuesday, June 6, from 5 p.m. to 6 p.m., Board 104 

Presenter: Melissa Nevarez-Brewster, graduate student at the University of Denver 

For a copy of the abstract or to arrange an interview with the study author or a sleep expert, please send an email to media@aasm.org. 

About the Associated Professional Sleep Societies, LLC 

The APSS is a joint venture of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society. The APSS organizes the SLEEP annual meeting each June (sleepmeeting.org). 

About the American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

Established in 1975, the AASM advances sleep care and enhances sleep health to improve lives. The AASM has a combined membership of 12,000 accredited sleep centers and individuals, including physicians, scientists and other health care professionals who care for patients with sleep disorders. As the leader in the sleep field, the AASM sets standards and promotes excellence in sleep medicine health care, education and research (aasm.org). 

About the Sleep Research Society  

The SRS is a professional membership society that advances sleep and circadian science. The SRS provides forums for the exchange of information, establishes and maintains standards of reporting and classifies data in the field of sleep research, and collaborates with other organizations to foster scientific investigation on sleep and its disorders. The SRS also publishes the peer-reviewed, scientific journals Sleep and Sleep Advances (sleepresearchsociety.org). 

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[Press-News.org] Newborns with higher hair cortisol levels take longer to fall asleep
Results suggest that cortisol levels in late pregnancy can predict infant sleep at 7 months of age