Breakthrough Research on SIDS

Breakthrough Research on SIDSSudden Infant Death Syndrome, commonly known as SIDS, is one of the scariest prospects any new parent can imagine. A plethora of baby monitoring devices and countless sleepless hours have gone into ensuring babies remain safe while they sleep. Until recently, the cause of this serious infant issue was a mystery. Now, breakthrough research on SIDS may fill in the missing pieces.

Researchers from the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children in New South Wales, Sydney, Australia have discovered a biological link in infants’ risk of SIDS. It’s all tied to a brain protein called orexin (or sometimes known as hypocretin). This neuropeptide is responsible for appetite and wakefulness. Among the babies in the recent study, those who died of SIDS have significantly less orexin – approximately 20% lower.

Knowing this link between SIDS and low levels of orexin, newborns can be tested to find out their individual risk factors. Parents with babies at high risk of SIDS can be more vigilant of their baby’s breathing during sleep, especially during the first six months when SIDS is most common.

Before screenings become commonplace, further research will need to be done to verify these findings. The team from the Royal Alexandra Hospital for Children is currently working on a new study to determine why orexin is low in some infants and not others.

Interestingly, those who suffer from narcolepsy, a disease in which people are excessively tired and may spontaneously fall asleep during the day, also lack orexin due to a breakdown in the brain cells that produce it.

Until now, experts believed environmental factors were mostly responsible for SIDS deaths including stomach sleeping, smoke in the home, and unsafe sleep spaces. While it is critical to continue to create safe sleeping conditions for babies, this groundbreaking research on SIDS indicates there may be more to the story than originally suspected.

Sources: MSN, WebMD and NewbornBaby


Read more about SIDS on our blog:

SIDS and Breastfeeding: Crib and Sleeping Safety Tips