The relationship between environmental temperature, metabolic rate, sleep state, and evaporative water loss in infants from birth to three months

Pediatr Res. 1992 Oct;32(4):417-23. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199210000-00010.


We have investigated the effect of changing environmental temperature on metabolic rate, sleep state, and water loss in a longitudinal study of 22 lightly clothed babies from 2 d to 3 mo of age. Studies were performed in a modified barometric plethysmograph while recording sleep state, oxygen consumption, and skin and axillary temperatures. Oxygen consumption was higher in rapid eye movement sleep than in quiet sleep at all ages and varied widely between infants at each temperature. Within the first week, there was a 19% rise in oxygen consumption on cooling to 19-22 degrees C during rapid eye movement sleep and a 6% rise during quiet sleep. The median duration of quiet sleep periods was reduced from 17 to 12 min on cooling within the first week. No such change was seen at 1, 2, and 3 mo. Axillary temperature was reduced at 3 mo during cooling. This may be a part of normal patterns of change in temperature during sleep, unrelated to cooling. At each age, total evaporative water loss fell linearly with falling environmental temperature both within and below the temperature range at which metabolic rate was minimal. The evaporative water losses were greater than expected and suggested that sweating was occurring, both at temperatures at which metabolic rate was minimal and at those at which it was increased. The metabolic response to cooling and the process of sweating appear to be in dynamic equilibrium across this temperature range. Thus, it was not possible to define a temperature range over which both metabolic rate and evaporative water loss were at minimum values.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Body Temperature Regulation / physiology
  • Body Water / metabolism*
  • Cold Temperature / adverse effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Oxygen Consumption*
  • Sleep Stages
  • Stress, Physiological / physiopathology
  • Sweating / physiology
  • Temperature