Many parents consult their GP for advice on dealing with babies crying and unable to sleep at night. Babies can be particularly restless during the early evening, this is often described as ‘early evening colic’ and there is evidence to suggest that these babies also have difficulty sleeping throughout the night.
Dr Yvonne Harrison was awarded a grant by Sparks to investigate whether there is a link between babies who cry a lot in the early evening and the amount of light they are exposed to during the day. Prior to this research, there was very little information available on the development of the biological clock or ‘circadian rhythms’ in infants.
Dr Harrison found that babies who were good sleepers tended to be exposed to twice as much light between noon and 4 pm compared to the poor sleepers. These results suggest that higher levels of light encourage the early development of their circadian rhythms. These are influenced by hormones and set the biological clock, which regulates a number of bodily functions, including the secretion of melatonin, an important factor in well-balanced sleeping patterns.
Although the importance of light in influencing the biological clock in adults is well known, this was an original finding in relation to young babies. It strongly suggests that advice from health care professionals to new parents to expose their babies to daylight in the afternoons may help both babies and parents to get a good night’s sleep.
Sparks continues to fund vital research into children’s medical conditions. Find out more about our current projects or get involved in our fundraising events today.
- Liverpool John Moores University
- Colic and sleep pattern in babies