Mother-infant bed sharing is associated with an increase in infant heart rate


Analyses of the infants' interquartile ranges showed a significant night effect for light non-REM sleep and for REM sleep but not for deep non-REM sleep or for waking In both of the affected sleep stages; the bed sharing night was associated with a reduction in variability compared to the solitary night. Although not significant, the pattern in deep non-REM sleep was similar to that in light non-REM sleep and REM. When the changes in basal heart rate were factored into the variability analysis, only the effects in light non-REM sleep persisted.

Identical analyses of the mothers' heart rate data revealed a significant immediate effect for light non-REM sleep where the bed sharing night was associated with a slower heart rate than the solitary night. In addition, there was a significant group effect during deep non-REM sleep with lower heart rates in the routine bed sharers than in the routine solitary sleeping mothers. The variability in the mother's heart rate was not significantly affected by bed sharing.

Conclusions and Comments

The results of this study indicate that the changes in heart rate reflect the immediate effects of the sleep environment and are not due to long-term or developmental consequences of the choice of sleeping condition. These effects on heart rate and variability are likely related to sensory or psychological stimuli unique to the bedsharing environment, or conversely, to the lack of those stimuli in the solitary condition. More specifically, environmental effects on infant body temperature may be related to the differences in cardiovascular activity and in a sleep-state dependent manner. The clinical significance of the differences in heart rate and its variability between the two sleeping environments is not clear since clinical outcomes were not a part of the experimental design. However, it does appear that the bedsharing infants exhibit an increase in sympathetic activity, c

Contact: Donna Krupa
American Physiological Society

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