$10,000 to find out babies wake up a lot

MICHELLE ROBINSON
Last updated 05:00 13/11/2011

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The Accident Compensation Corporation has spent more than $10,000 on a study that shows what we all know – babies wake up a lot at night.

The corporation funded the Otago University research into the sleeping habits of babies and children, which found parents are disturbed, on average, four times a night by babies, and twice a night by toddlers up to age two.

The study's purpose was to determine the level of help parents needed for children with serious spinal or brain injuries with poor sleep patterns, said spokeswoman Liz Cairns.

But the number of times babies wake up varies greatly, as Whangaparaoa mother Gill Bredle has learned.

A strict routine that allowed 10-week-old Jordan just a few hours sleep during the day did little to stop his hourly waking habits at night.

"I was concerned he was too hot or hungry."

But he may have been neither, family counsellor and sleep expert Anna Martin said.

"Babies are designed to wake during the night for safety and survival, to regulate their temperature and heart-rate."

Babies ensured they were safe by attracting their parents' attention.

Feeling too hot or cold, being over-tired or over-stimulated or having growth spurts could all cause a baby to wake, she said.

Among other data from studies:

Asian children were also not getting enough sleep, yet they were performing well at school.

"Intensive studies show Asian children tend to go to bed a bit later because there's more of a focus on schooling and homework," Otago University women and children's health senior researcher Barbara Galland said.

Obese children with obstructive sleep apnoea, didn't sleep well and performed worse at school. The breathing condition was evident in larger tonsils and affected 2% of children, sleep expert Dr Alex Bartle said. The condition led to obesity as children tended to be sleepy and ate more for energy, he said. 

BLINDINGLY OBVIOUS

Three University of Otago researchers won a Nobel Prize for physics for research on the ability of socks to prevent slips on ice. It cost a maximum of $100 and discovered socks worn over shoes prevented falls. The research by Lianne Parkin, Sheila Williams and Patricia Priest was "light-hearted" and completed in their own time. In 2008, Victoria University PhD student Barnaby Dixson discovered that men like to look at breasts. Using an infrared "eye-tracking machine", he found married men from New Zealand, Samoa and Papua New Guinea preferred larger breasts whereas unmarried men preferred medium-sized.

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