Infants at increased risk of the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) show abnormal patterning of sleep-waking states. It was hypothesized that infants who were to die of SIDS would show abnormalities of sleep state distribution prior to their deaths. Twenty-two 12-hour recordings were obtained from infants who subsequently died of SIDS, and sleep state patterns were compared in these records and 66 records of age-matched control infants. Each 1-minute epoch was classified as quiet sleep, rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, waking, indeterminate state, or artifact-contaminated. Victims of SIDS showed less waking and more sleep than control infants during the early-morning hours. Victims of SIDS younger than 1 month of age showed significantly more epochs classified as REM sleep across the night and significantly fewer epochs contaminated by artifacts relative to control infants. Further analysis indicated that the increased number of REM epochs resulted from fewer artifact-contaminated epochs, suggesting reduced motility during REM sleep in the SIDS victims compared with the control infants. The finding of decreased waking time during the early morning is of particular importance since most SIDS deaths occur during this portion of the day. The findings of altered sleep patterns in SIDS victims suggest that central neural changes are associated with SIDS risk.
- Received November 12, 1990.
- Accepted July 16, 1991.
- Copyright © 1992 by the American Academy of Pediatrics