Fermentation for ‘hibernation’: Infants more likely to sleep 10+ hours if mothers eat fermented foods during pregnancy

By Nurul Ain Razali contact

- Last updated on GMT

Infants and toddlers are more likely to sleep 10 hours or more if their mothers consume fermented food when pregnant, according to a study. ©Getty Images
Infants and toddlers are more likely to sleep 10 hours or more if their mothers consume fermented food when pregnant, according to a study. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Probiotics, Circadian rhythm, Cheese, Children

Infants and toddlers are more likely to sleep 10 hours or more if their mothers consume fermented food when pregnant, according to a Japanese study on 64,200 pairs of mothers and children.

The study, titled “Association between maternal fermented food consumption and child sleep duration at the age of 3 years: the Japan Environment and Children’s Study” ​and published in the journal BMC Public Health, showed that fermented food like cheese and miso could reduce the risk of sleep deprivation, but in a limited manner.

“Children need a sufficient amount of good-quality sleep for healthy development. From the neonatal period to infancy and early childhood, sleep patterns change with the child’s development.

“Short sleep duration has been reported to negatively affect physical and neurological development, including obesity in infancy and childhood and hyperactivity at six years of age. Therefore, it is important to investigate the risk factors for sleep deprivation in children.

“One of the factors is the diet of their mothers during pregnancy, which is recognised as a lifestyle factor. For example, probiotic-containing and fermented foods are thought to influence the gut microbiota and have received considerable interest because they are associated with maternal health or, conversely, the development of diseases, depending on the amount consumed,” ​said the researchers.

The team analysed records of women and children from 15 regions enrolled during the first trimester of pregnancy between January 2011 and March 2014.

Their dietary intake of fermented food during pregnancy was assessed using a food frequency questionnaire involving 171 food and beverage items, including four fermented foods – miso soup, yoghurt, cheese and Japanese fermented soybeans called natto. The children borne from the subjects had three-year-olds who slept less than 10 hours.

Fermentation for ‘hibernation’

The results of the analysis showed that cheese intake during pregnancy was associated with a significantly lower risk of sleep deprivation in children at more than 10 hours.

In contrast, miso was linked to sleep duration among one-year-olds but not three-year-olds. Therefore, it could be concluded that the mothers’ consumption of fermented food during pregnancy could impact their children’s sleep until at least three years of age.

The results corroborated with an RCT involving the consumption of yoghurt and kimchi for 10 weeks by Wastyk H. C. et al.​ (2021).

In addition, maternal melatonin was found to affect the foetus via the placenta, through studies done by Liang X. et al.​ (2015) and Thaiss C. A. et al.​ (2014), and the gut microbiota is transferred to the baby at birth, causing changes to the infant’s microbiota. The intestinal microbiota also reflects significant metabolic changes in the gut, sleep-wake patterns and sleep quality.

Moreover, the pregnant women who were found to consume more fermented food were well-educated, employed and had higher incomes. The scientists inferred that they had likely recognised factors that could contribute to health and chose nutrient-rich options than nutritionally-unbalanced food.

“The results showed that mothers who consumed more cheese during pregnancy had a reduced risk of their children sleeping less than 10 hours per night,” ​concluded the scientists.

Source:​ BMC Public Health

“Association between maternal fermented food consumption and child sleep duration at the age of 3 years: the Japan Environment and Children’s Study”

DOI:10.1186/s12889-022-13805-6

Authors:​ Mariko Inoue et al.

Probiotics, healthy ageing and protein are major focus areas of our upcoming Growth Asia Summit in Singapore from 11 to 13 October. Check out big-name brands, international experts and pioneering start-ups slated to present here.

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