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Effect of a consultation teaching behaviour modification on sleep performance in infants: a randomised controlled trial

Brian G Symon, John E Marley, A James Martin and Emily R Norman
Med J Aust 2005; 182 (5): 215-218.

Summary

Objective: To evaluate the effect of a behaviour modification program, taught to parents in a single visit to a trained nurse, in improving sleep performance in newborn infants.

Design: Randomised controlled trial.

Setting and participants: 268 families with normal newborn infants in the community, recruited between October 1996 and March 1997 from birth notices published in a South Australian daily newspaper.

Intervention: A 45-minute consultation with a nurse 2–3 weeks after the birth, including a tutorial discussion on normal sleep patterns in newborn infants, supported by retained written material and, for infants with weight gain < 30 g daily, referral to their usual postnatal care provider.

Main outcome measures: Hours of daytime sleep (0600–1800), night sleep (1800–0600) and total sleep per 24 h; and number of daily records with total sleep ≥ 15 h per 24 h, assessed by 7-day sleep diary at ages 6 and 12 weeks.

Results: 268 families returned at least one sleep diary (137/171 intervention, 131/175 control), recording 3273 days. Two intervention infants were referred for low weight gain. Total sleep time was 15 h or more per 24 h on 62% of recorded days in the intervention group, compared with 36% in the control group (P < 0.001). At 6 weeks of age, intervention infants slept a mean 1.3 h per day more than control infants (95% CI, 0.95–1.65), comprising a mean 0.5 h more night sleep (95% CI, 0.32–0.69) and 0.8 h more daytime sleep (95% CI, 0.56–1.07). At 12 weeks, intervention infants slept a mean 1.2 h per day more (95% CI, 0.94–2.14), comprising 0.64 h more night sleep (95% CI, 0.19–0.89) and 0.58 h more daytime sleep (95% CI, 0.39–1.03). There was no significant difference in crying time between the groups.

Conclusions: A single consultation supported by written material in the first 3 weeks of a child’s life improves sleep performance at 6 weeks of age. This improvement is maintained at 3 months.

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  • Brian G Symon1
  • John E Marley2
  • A James Martin3
  • Emily R Norman4

  • 1 Adelaide, SA.
  • 2 The University of Newcastle, Newcastle, NSW.
  • 3 Adelaide Women's and Children's Hospital, Adelaide, SA

Correspondence: 

Acknowledgements: 

This research was supported by a grant from the Adelaide Women’s and Children’s Hospital Research Foundation. The follow-up study was supported by a Primary Health Care Research, Evaluation and Development Research Bursary from the Department of General Practice, Adelaide University. The authors wish to thank Louise Taylor, Fiona Martin, Heather McElroy, Dr Phil Ryan, Ben Symon, Nicole Pratt and Emmae Ramsay (University of Adelaide, SA).

Competing interests:

Dr Brian Symon is the author of the books Your baby, which was given to parents in the intervention group, and Silent nights, which discusses sleep in a manner similar to that presented in the intervention.

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