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Neuropediatrics. 1998 Apr;29(2):72-9.

SIDS, abnormal nighttime REM sleep and CNS immaturity.

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Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Department of Pediatrics, N.Y., USA.


SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is the major cause of death in young, apparently healthy, infants, yet its etiology and pathogenesis remain unknown. SIDS peaks at 2-4 months, is more prevalent in the winter months and typically occurs in the early morning hours when most babies are asleep, suggesting that sleep may be part of the pathophysiological mechanism of SIDS. The sleep patterns of infants at high risk for SIDS were analyzed to test the hypothesis that there are abnormalities specific to nighttime sleep which may be indicative of a central nervous system (CNS) deficit that contributes to a high frequency of SIDS during the night. Electrophysiological sleep variables were recorded at monthly intervals in 1-6 months-old infants during the peak age of SIDS. The risk group (R) was resuscitated from a potentially life-threatening Sudden A-Ventilatory Event (S.A.V.E.) and compared to a group of control infants (C) with no family history of SIDS. The data representing four equal time intervals from 11 p.m.-11 a.m. show an abrupt, statistically significant increase in REM sleep from 2-5 a.m. in R infants. In C infants, time spent in REM sleep after 2 a.m. becomes progressively shorter while NREM sleep is proportionately longer. From 11 p.m.-2 a.m., however, R and C infants do not differ either in the duration or in the percent of total sleep time (TST) of REM sleep. We hypothesize that these REM sleep abnormalities in vulnerable infants are indicative of a pervasive CNS immaturity. The higher prevalence of SIDS in the cold winter months and in the early morning hours, when darkness is prolonged, is discussed in relation to the possible involvement of the circadian rhythm of melatonin.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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