Infant motor development predicts the dynamics of movement during sleep

Aaron DeMasi, Melissa N. Horger, Anat Scher, Sarah E. Berger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The characteristics of infant sleep change over the first year. Generally, infants wake and move less at night as they grow older. However, acquisition of new motor skills leads to temporary increases in night waking and movement at night. Indeed, sleep-dependent movement at night is important for sensorimotor development. Nevertheless, little is known about how movement during sleep changes as infants accrue locomotor experience. The current study investigated whether infant sleep and movement during sleep were predicted by infants' walking experience. Seventy-eight infants wore an actigraph to measure physical activity during sleep. Parents reported when their infants first walked across a room >10 feet without stopping or falling. Infants in the midst of walking skill acquisition had worse sleep than an age-group estimate. Infants with more walk experience had more temporally sporadic movement during sleep and a steeper hourly increase in physical activity over the course of the night. Ongoing motor skill consolidation changes the characteristics of movement during sleep and may alter sleep state-dependent memory consolidation. We propose a model whereby changes in gross motor activity during night sleep reflect movement-dependent consolidation.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages21
Issue number2
Early online date1 Dec 2022
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank the parents and infants who participated. We gratefully acknowledge the assistance of members of the Child Development Lab, especially Angelina M. Allia, Pascale Saad, Dana Friedman, Fatima Arman, Ruth Marsiliani, Sapir Elmaliah, Salwa Raheel, and Daniel Palmieri; the research assistants in the Sleep and Development Lab, Sandra Zukerman, Tamar Simon, Maayan Peled, Hanit Ohana, Rotem Ad‐Epztein, Alona Einav, and Larisa Ginat; and Rachel Payne of the Brooklyn Public Library. We also thank Dr. Wei Wang and Dr. Martín Calderón‐Juárez for helpful comments regarding data analysis. Portions of this research were presented at the Ninth International Recurrence Plot Symposium hybrid meeting, Lublin, Poland, September, 2021 and at the 93 Eastern Psychological Association meeting, New York, NY, March 2022. This work was supported by the National Science Foundation, Division of Behavioral and Cognitive Science [1551703], Professional Staff Congress–City University of New York (PSC–CUNY) [Award No. 67509‐00 45] to S.E.B; a Binational Science Foundation (BSF‐2015606) to A.S., CUNY Coordinated Undergraduate Education Research Stipend and International Congress of Infant Studies Undergraduate Summer Research Fellowship to Pascale Saad, the College of Staten Island Office of Technology to S.E.B, the Revson Undergraduate Research Scholarship to Dana Friedman, and the City University of New York Doctoral Student Research Grant (Round 15) to A.D. rd

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 International Congress of Infant Studies.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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