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Short-sleep deprivation among infants can lead to obstructive sleep apnea and dramatic increases in arousal thresholds, concluded a study reported in Pediatrics (August 2004). Therefore, the researchers suggested that keeping infants up past their normal bedtimes may put them at increased risk for sudden infant death syndrome.
The study included 14 healthy 8-month-old infants who were tested during a morning and afternoon nap with polysomnography (sleep study). The infants were sleep deprived for 2 hours before being allowed to fall asleep, half of them before their morning nap, the other half before their afternoon nap. The researchers found that sleep-deprived naps were associated with the development of obstructive sleep apnea, and it took an increase in "white noise" to wake them up, compared with normal naps. The researchers noted that more research is required to support their findings.