Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Sleep

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difficulty breathing due to an infection, decreased oxygen intake resulting from bedding that covers the infants face. For instance, infants who are sleeping on their stomachs and begin re-breathing air that is trapped in their bedding normally wake up and cry. An infant with a brain abnormality may not send the protective wake up signal. Similarly, an infant sleeping on his or her stomach whose head becomes covered by bedding may begin to overheat; while the brain usually triggers the infant to wake up and move to free his or her head, the overheating may inhibit the brains protective wake up signal.

To help explain the complex processes that may cause SIDS, The National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD) has put forward the "triple-risk hypothesis," suggesting infants who die of SIDS are:

  • in a critical stage in the development of their immune, cardiovascular and respiratory systems
  • susceptible to risks during this stage due to an underlying muscular weakness or neurologic defect
  • affected by an environmental cause such as stomach sleeping or soft bedding

A seasonal component has also been noted in SIDS, as SIDS deaths tend occur more frequently during the winter months. This may be linked to using excess clothing and bedding in an attempt to keep infants warm, and to the increase in respiratory infections that occur during the winter.


  • Immunizations cause SIDS.

    There is no connection between immunizations and SIDS, according to a 2003 study by the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) Board on Health Promotion and Disease Prevention.

  • Infants are at a greater risk for choking when sleeping on their backs.

    Doctors have found no increase in choking or other problems in infants who sleep on their backs.

  • Side sleeping is just as safe as back sleeping.

    Side sleeping is not as safe as back sleeping. Infants who sleep on their sides can roll onto their stomachs, putting them at a greater risk for SIDS.

  • It is never safe for an infant to be placed on his or her stomach.

    Infants can be placed on their stomachs when they are awake and someone

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