Sudden infant deaths: stress, arousal and SIDS

Early Hum Dev. 2003 Dec:75 Suppl:S147-66. doi: 10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2003.08.018.


The prevalence of the Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) has dropped in most countries following the development of education campaigns on the avoidance of preventable risk factors for SIDS. These include factors in the infant's micro environment, such as prenatal passive smoking, administration of sedative drugs, prone sleep, high ambient temperature or sleeping with the face covered. Sleep laboratory studies have shown that these risk conditions contribute to the development of respiratory and autonomic disorders and reduce the child's arousability. The opposite effects were seen when studying factors protective from SIDS, such as breastfeeding or the use of a pacifier. In victims of SIDS, similar breathing, autonomic and arousal characteristics were recorded days or weeks before their death. It is concluded that in some infants, already immature control mechanisms can be aggravated by environmental factors.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Breast Feeding
  • Female
  • Hot Temperature
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives
  • Infant
  • Infant Care / methods
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Pacifiers
  • Polysomnography
  • Prone Position
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Stress, Physiological / complications*
  • Sudden Infant Death / etiology*
  • Sudden Infant Death / prevention & control


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives