Sudden Infant Death Syndrome and Sleep

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of SIDS. While electronic respiratory and cardiac monitors may be used for infants deemed to have extreme cardiorespiratory instability or who have had an apparent life-threatening event involving apnea or other breathing difficulty, there is no evidence that using a home monitor reduces the incidence of SIDS.


Losing a child to SIDS is a tragedy that can cause intense reactions of disbelief, denial, confusion, guilt, anger and depression among parents and other family members. This depression often affects sleeping, eating, the ability to focus and overall energy level. Many parents experience unreasonable fears that other family members may also be in danger, and may over-protect surviving children or have fears for future children.

Surviving siblings may also fear that other family members will suddenly die, or they may feel guilty about the sibling’s death. Signs that children are suffering include increased clinging to parents, difficulties in school, misbehaving and disturbed sleep. It helps to talk to surviving children about the death, explaining that the baby died because of a medical problem that only occurs in infants.

Families who have lost an infant may benefit from counseling and support groups, such as services offered through the SIDS Alliance.

Reviewed by Daniel S. Lewin, Ph.D., D.ABSM, Director, Pediatric Behavioral Sleep Medicine, Children's National Medical Center, and Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, George Washington University School of Medicine.

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