Parent-led massage and sleep EEG for term-born infants: A randomized controlled parallel-group study

Dev Med Child Neurol. 2023 Oct;65(10):1395-1407. doi: 10.1111/dmcn.15565. Epub 2023 Mar 14.


Aim: To examine the impact of parent-led massage on the sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) features of typically developing term-born infants at 4 months.

Method: Infants recruited at birth were randomized to intervention (routine parent-led massage) and control groups. Infants had a daytime sleep EEG at 4 months and were assessed using the Griffiths Scales of Child Development, Third Edition at 4 and 18 months. Comparative analysis between groups and subgroup analysis between regularly massaged and never-massaged infants were performed. Groups were compared for sleep stage, sleep spindles, quantitative EEG (primary analysis), and Griffiths using the Mann-Whitney U test.

Results: In total, 179 out of 182 infants (intervention: 83 out of 84; control: 96 out of 98) had a normal sleep EEG. Median (interquartile range) sleep duration was 49.8 minutes (39.1-71.4) (n = 156). A complete first sleep cycle was seen in 67 out of 83 (81%) and 72 out of 96 (75%) in the intervention and control groups respectively. Groups did not differ in sleep stage durations, latencies to sleep and to rapid eye movement sleep. Sleep spindle spectral power was greater in the intervention group in main and subgroup analyses. The intervention group showed greater EEG magnitudes, and lower interhemispherical coherence on subgroup analyses. Griffiths assessments at 4 months (n = 179) and 18 months (n = 173) showed no group differences in the main and subgroup analyses.

Interpretation: Routine massage is associated with distinct functional brain changes at 4 months.

What this paper adds: Routine massage of infants is associated with differences in sleep electroencephalogram biomarkers at 4 months. Massaged infants had higher sleep spindle spectral power, greater sleep EEG magnitudes, and lower interhemispherical coherence. No differences between groups were observed in total nap duration or first cycle macrostructure.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain
  • Child
  • Electroencephalography*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Massage
  • Parents
  • Sleep*