We all know the side-effects of not getting quality sleep but for new borns it may also prove fatal.
Recently released research links an abnormal production of the neurotransmitter serotonin with SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The findings were published online February 2 in Journal of the American Medical Association.
Past studies that examined the brain stems of infants who died from SIDS revealed that in more than half of the cases the neurons which produce serotonin—a chemical responsible for regulating heart rate, body temperature and mood were found to be overly prevalent and abnormally shaped.
Other research, published July 4, 2008, in Science found that in mice which had been bred to have too many serotonin receptors, approximately three quarters of the specimens died before the age of four months, typically after suffering sudden drops in heart rate and body temperature. However, at that time it was not clear whether an overabundance or lack of the neurotransmitter might be to blame.
The correlation between low serotonin levels and an elevated risk of SIDS was underscored in the recent study.
“Our research suggests that sleep unmasks the brain defect,” Hannah Kinney, an associate professor at Harvard Medical School and a senior researcher on the study, said in a prepared statement.
“When the infant is breathing in the face-down position, he or she may not get enough oxygen. An infant with a normal brainstem would turn his or head and wake up in response. But a baby with an intrinsic abnormality is unable to respond to the stressor.”
Other than a compromised serotonin system several other health/external factors played a role in the results including, stomach or side sleeping, previous minor illness or sharing a bed.
Having found these deficits “may ultimately lead to ways to identify infants most at risk as well as additional strategies for reducing the risk of SIDS for all infants,” said Alan Guttmacher, acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.