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SIDS surprise: Study finds that infant boys are more easily aroused from sleep than girls
Date:7/31/2010

DARIEN, Ill. A study in the Aug. 1 issue of the journal Sleep shows that at 2 to 4 weeks of age male infants are easier to arouse than females during quiet sleep, and by 2 to 3 months of age there are no significant gender differences in arousability. The results suggest that the increased rate of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in males may not reflect a pre-existing vulnerability involving arousal responses.

Results show that at 2 to 4 weeks of age, the mean strength of a pulsatile air-jet stimulus that was required to induce arousal during quiet sleep was significantly lower in male infants than female infants. At 2 to 3 months of age, which is the age of peak SIDS risk, this gender difference in arousal threshold was no longer significant. The study also found similar arousal frequencies in male and female infants at both ages. The results suggest that there are no gender differences in arousability that could increase the vulnerability of male infants to SIDS.

"A failure to arouse from sleep is involved in the fatal pathway to an infant dying suddenly and unexpectedly," said senior author Rosemary S.C. Horne, National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia Senior Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Ritchie Centre at the Monash Institute of Medical Research at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia. "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."

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reports that SIDS is the sudden, unexplained death of an infant younge
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Contact: Kathleen McCann
kmccann@aasmnet.org
630-737-9700
American Academy of Sleep Medicine
Source:Eurekalert

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