Prenatal exposure to cigarette smoking is associated with a decrease in arousal in infants

J Pediatr. 1999 Jul;135(1):34-8. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(99)70324-0.


Objective: Sudden infant death syndrome has been related to both exposure to prenatal cigarette smoke and impaired arousability from sleep. We evaluated whether healthy infants born to mothers who smoked during pregnancy had higher auditory arousal thresholds than those born to mothers who did not smoke and whether the effects of smoking occurred before birth.

Study design: Twenty-six newborns were studied with polygraphic recordings for 1 night: 13 were born to mothers who did not smoke, and 13 were born to mothers who smoked (>9 cigarettes per day). Other infants with a median postnatal age of 12 weeks were also studied, 21 born to nonsmoking mothers and 21 born to smoking mothers. White noise of increasing intensity was administered during rapid eye movement sleep to evaluate arousal and awakening thresholds.

Results: More intense auditory stimuli were needed to induce arousals in newborns (P =.002) and infants (P =. 044) of smokers than in infants of nonsmokers. Behavioral awakening occurred significantly less frequently in the newborns of smokers (P =.002) than of nonsmokers.

Conclusions: Newborns and infants born to smoking mothers had higher arousal thresholds to auditory challenges than those born to nonsmoking mothers. The impact of exposure to cigarette smoke occurred before birth.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Auditory Threshold / physiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Polysomnography
  • Pregnancy
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects*
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution / adverse effects*


  • Tobacco Smoke Pollution