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New findings support the practice of swaddling babies for sleep. A study of 16 infants aged 6 to 16 weeks showed that swaddled infants slept longer and were less likely to suddenly wake up. For the study, the infants were placed on their backs to sleep. They spent several hours sleeping unrestrained and several hours swaddled using sandbags and bedsheets wrapped tightly enough to immobilize their arms and legs.
The results of the study showed that when infants were swaddled they had increased time asleep, as well as increased non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, or light sleep, compared with when they were not swaddled. The researchers also noted that swaddled infants are less likely to wake up on their own but more apt to be awakened by less intense noise during deep, or REM, sleep. Reporting in Pediatrics (May 2005), the researchers said that swaddling may decrease sudden infant death syndrome by "preventing the infants from rolling [onto their stomachs] and from getting their heads caught in loose blankets."The researchers said that more research is needed to assess reported complications before suggesting swaddling for all infants.