Decreased autonomic responses to obstructive sleep events in future victims of sudden infant death syndrome

Pediatr Res. 1999 Jul;46(1):33-9. doi: 10.1203/00006450-199907000-00006.


To evaluate changes in autonomic nervous system controls in response to obstructive events in future victims of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), we studied the polysomnographic sleep recordings of 18 future SIDS infants and those of 36 matched control infants. A heart rate autoregressive power spectral analysis was performed preceding and after the obstructive apneas. The low-frequency to high-frequency power ratio was computed to evaluate sympathovagal balance. Future SIDS victims had significantly more obstructive apneas (p = 0.001) and mixed apneas (p = 0.005) than control infants. Obstructive events occurred mainly during rapid eye movement sleep in the two populations (84.5% in future SIDS victims and 95.8% in control infants; p = NS). Comparing heart rate power spectral analysis before and after obstructive apneas in rapid eye movement sleep, high-frequency power values were significantly lower and low-frequency to high-frequency power ratios higher in future SIDS victims than in control infants. Compared with preapnea values, low-frequency to high-frequency power ratios significantly decreased after obstructive apneas in control infants (p < 0.001) but not in the future SIDS victims. When the obstructive apneas were divided according to duration, the findings were seen mainly for long apneas. In conclusion, future SIDS victims were characterized by different autonomic status and responses to obstructive apneas during sleep. These findings could be relevant to mechanisms implicated in some cases of SIDS.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Apnea / physiopathology*
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiology
  • Autonomic Nervous System / physiopathology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Infant, Premature
  • Male
  • Polysomnography*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Reference Values
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / physiopathology*
  • Sudden Infant Death*