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Sleeping on Sofas can Increase Risk of Death in Infants

Update Date: Oct 13, 2014 11:01 AM EDT
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Allowing infants to sleep on the sofa can be extremely dangerous, a new study reported. According to the researchers, sleeping on the sofa, even with supervision, can increase risk of sudden and sleep-related deaths.

"We did this study simply because there wasn't a lot of data out there already about what are the factors related to sleep-related deaths on sofas," said Dr. Jeffrey Colvin, one of the study's authors and a pediatrician at Children's Mercy Hospitals in Kansas City, MO reported by Reuters Health.

For this study, Dr. Colvin and colleagues examined data that was gathered from 2004 to 2012. The sample included 7,934 infants from 24 states that were aged one or younger.

The team found that overall, one in eight, or about 12 percent of sudden and sleep-related deaths happened when the infants were on the sofa. When compared to other kinds of sleep-related deaths, the researchers reported that the deaths occurring on the sofa were roughly 20 percent more likely to have an ill-defined cause. These deaths were 90 percent more likely to be grouped as suffocation.

"Infants often end up sleeping on the sofa because one parent is trying to feed the baby without disturbing the other parent, or they think they will watch TV or do something while they are up with the baby in the middle of the night, but then they unintentionally fall asleep out of exhaustion," said Dr. Cigal Shaham, an attending physician at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles reported by HealthDay. "The sofa is so dangerous for infants because it is soft, which means the infant can suffocate more easily, and it often slopes so babies can roll onto their stomachs, roll between the couch and the back cushions or even roll off the sofa."

The researchers reported that the infants were most likely found on their side. They believe that the slope of the couch could have caused infants to roll around and fall onto their stomachs. Without enough muscle strength to turn onto their backs, babies in this sleeping position can easily suffocate. The researchers added that the infants who were more likely to die while sleeping on the couch were also more likely to have been exposed to tobacco in the womb. However, no clear link between the two factors was identified.

"I think the message for parents is that the sofa is an inherently dangerous place for an infant to sleep," Dr. Colvin said. "An unsafe sleep environment is unsafe whether it's night or day and whether the adult is awake or asleep,"

The study was published in the journal, Pediatrics.

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