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A study was recently released that suggests using fans to fight sudden infant death syndrome. We can always use another weapon in our arsenal in the battle against SIDS so I’m willing to give it a shot, aren’t you? The information in the study says fans might do more than just save energy in the baby’s nursery. Who would ever have dreamed that running a fan in your baby’s nursery may lower a baby’s risk of SIDS but that indeed seems to be the case.

We have heard for quite a while that we should take steps to prevent baby from overheating as well as to place baby on his or her back to sleep as multi-pronged risk reduction tactics. Now they are adding another step to our growing list of preventatives in the battle against the devastating sneak thief, SIDS.

The findings of the study were that when babies sleep in a room where fans are used to circulate the air that there is a 72 percent reduction in SIDS. This is the biggest breakthrough since the “Back to Sleep” movement that recommended placing babies on their backs to sleep rather than their stomachs. This recommendation reduced the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome to approximately one in every 2,000 births.

With the news came a warning that running fans alone may not do the trick. Rather they wanted to let us know that air circulation and room ventilation looked promising, especially when combined with our other prevention methods. But the real message here is that there is still more work and research necessary before we can put the fear of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome behind us forever and that takes lots of money.

Findings like these keep us hopeful and keep the awareness that sudden infant death syndrome still exists in the headlines. This is a good thing because SIDS should stay high on the list of priorities of researchers and pediatricians alike. More studies are desperately needed to solve the mystery surrounding SIDS and here again it might take a village to get the job done. Educating new parents and healthcare professionals, and raising money to fund more sudden infant death syndrome research are excellent goals that should be pursued until we know exactly what causes it and what to do to stop it in its tracks.

We all suspect by now that there is not going to be one simple answer. But every little bit of information helps so please familiarize yourself with known ways to reduce sudden infant death syndrome.


Anonymous said...

SIDS deaths in the U.S. decreased from 4,895 in 1992 to 2,247 in 2004. But, during a similar time period, 1989 to 2004, SIDS being listed as the cause of death for sudden infant death (SID) decreased from 80% to 55%. According to Dr. John Kattwinkel, chairman of the Center for Disease Control (CDC) Special Task Force on SIDS "A lot of us are concerned that the rate (of SIDS) isn't decreasing significantly, but that a lot of it is just code shifting”.

In a 2006 letter to the editor in the Journal of Pediatrics Dr. Rafael Pelayo, Dr. Judith Owens, Dr. Jodi Mindell, and Dr. Stephen Sheldon asked the following question of the American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome after their Pacifier and Co-sleeping report was published:
"...from the perspective of the field of pediatric sleep medicine, the policy statement's laudable but narrow focus on SIDS prevention raises a number of important issues that need to be addressed. In particular, the revised recommendations regarding cosleeping and pacifier use have the potential to lead to unintended consequences on both the sleep and the health of the infant. The potential implications of a SIDS risk-reduction strategy that is based on a combination of maintaining a low arousal threshold and reducing quiet (equivalent to Delta or slow-wave sleep) in infants must be considered. Because slow-wave sleep is considered the most restorative form of sleep and is believed to have a significant role in neurocognitive processes and learning, as well as in growth, what might be the neurodevelopmental consequences of chronically reducing deep sleep in the first critical 12 months of life?"

In a currently utilized model that explains the process in which slow wave sleep is involved in memory consolidation the hippocampus acts as a temporary storage facility for new memories which are then transferred to the neocortex during slow wave sleep (SWS) [8]. In this model, acetylcholine acts a feedback loop inhibitor inside the hippocampus during REM sleep and wakefulness. The activity during the high cholinergic wakefulness period is believed to provide an environment which allows for the encoding within the hippocampus of new declarative memories. The low cholinergic environment during SWS is thought to then allow these memories to be transferred from the temporary storage of the hippocampus to their permanent storage environment in the neocortex and for memory consolidation [9, 10].
A significant way of decreasing slow wave sleep in infants is by changing their sleeping position from prone to supine. It has been shown in studies of preterm infants [11, 12], full-term infants [13, 14], and older infants [15], that they have greater time periods of quiet sleep and also decreased time awake when they are positioned to sleep in the prone position.

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10. Hasselmo, M.E. 1999. Neuromodulation: Acetylcholine and memory consolidation. Trends Cogn. Sci. 3: 351–359.
11. Myers MM, Fifer WP, Schaeffer L, et al. Effects of sleeping position and time after feeding on the organization of sleep/wake states in prematurely born infants. Sleep 1998;21:343–9.
12. Sahni R, Saluja D, Schulze KF, et al. Quality of diet, body position, and time after feeding influence behavioral states in low birth weight infants. Pediatr Res 2002;52:399–404.
13. Brackbill Y, Douthitt TC, West H. Psychophysiologic effects in the neonate of prone versus supine placement. J Pediatr 1973;82:82–4.
14. Amemiya F, Vos JE, Prechtl HF. Effects of prone and supine position on heart rate, respiratory rate and motor activity in full term infants. Brain Dev 1991;3:148–54.
15. Kahn A, Rebuffat E, Sottiaux M, et al. Arousal induced by proximal esophageal reflux in infants. Sleep 1991;14:39–42.