The Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) is one of the most puzzling medical conditions doctors have ever met. Basically, this is the name experts gave situations in which children simply die in their crib, although to recognizable factors that may have caused their death are ever discovered. Male children were found to be a lot more likely to fall victim to SIDS, but a new study suggests that this has nothing to do with gender differences in arousability.
This term is used to express the ease with which infants wake up from quiet sleep. Researchers from Australia determined in a recent study that, while some differences in sleep arousability exist between boys and girls below the age of 2 months, these variations disappear once the children are 3 months old. Before that time, boys do wake up faster than girls, but differences soon fade away. The increased rate of SIDS among boys cannot therefore be linked to arousability, the experts argue in the August 1 issue of the esteemed medical journal Sleep.
“A failure to arouse from sleep is involved in the fatal pathway to an infant dying suddenly and unexpectedly. Since the incidence of SIDS is increased in male infants, we had expected the male infants to be more difficult to arouse from sleep and to have fewer full arousals than the female infants. In fact, we found the opposite when infants were younger at 2 to 4 weeks of age, and we were surprised to find that any differences between the male and female infants were resolved by the age of 2 to 3 months, which is the most vulnerable age for SIDS,” says Rosemary S.C. Horne, the senior author of the new study.
She is a senior research fellow at the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, and also the director of the Monash University Institute of Medical Research (IMR) Ritchie Center. “Our study has highlighted the fact that SIDS is multi-factorial and that at present it is not possible to predict the deadly combination of internal and environmental factors that will result in SIDS. Therefore, parents should be aware of the known risk factors and avoid them as best as possible by practicing the safe sleeping guidelines of sleeping babies on their backs, making sure their heads cannot be covered by bedding and keeping them free from cigarette smoke both before and after birth,” Home says.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) discovered a couple of decades ago that the incidence of SIDS can be reduced if children are laid to sleep on their back. As a result, they started the “Back to Sleep” campaign, which urged parents to be careful about how their infants sleep. After the initiative was started, statistics showed a reduction in the number of SIDS cases.