Sleeptime: Increase Air Circulation to Lower SIDS Risk

Researchers are constantly looking for new ways to help parents protect against the unexplained, sudden deaths of babies younger than age 1. A study published in the Archives of Pediatric & Adolescent Medicine discovered a simple one: running a fan in a sleeping baby’s room.

Researchers in the study interviewed 185 mothers of infants who died of SIDS about their infant’s sleeping environment, including sleep position, the type of bedding used, room temperature, whether a pacifier was used, and the use of a fan. They then compared these results to those of a control group of 312 mothers. The results found that running a fan in a sleeping infant’s room lowered the risk for SIDS by 72 percent. That risk was lowered even further when the infant’s sleeping conditions put him or her at higher risk for SIDS, such as sleeping in a warm room or sleeping on the stomach.

Ventilation Makes a Difference

While researchers still aren’t exactly sure what causes SIDS, one potential factor is rebreathing carbon dioxide that has been exhaled. Researchers believe that exhaled carbon dioxide may get trapped near an infant’s mouth and nose during sleep when there isn’t adequate ventilation. Soft bedding, sleeping on the stomach or side, or having the head covered during sleep all may lead to decreased ventilation—and increased risk.

Reducing the Risk of SIDS

Although running a fan during sleep time is one way parents can provide adequate ventilation to help protect their infants from SIDS, it’s not enough. Following all these recommendations can help reduce the risk for SIDS:

  • Parents should maintain a safe sleep environment by always placing infants to sleep on their backs—including at naptime.

  • Infants should have a firm sleep surface, such as a crib mattress.

  • Never put a baby to sleep on quilts, pillows, blankets, or other soft surfaces, and do not place these types of soft items in your baby’s crib.

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