Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) remains the main cause of postneonatal infant death. Thermal stress is a major risk factor and makes infants more vulnerable to SIDS. Although it has been suggested that thermal stress could lead to SIDS by disrupting autonomic functions, clinical and physiopathological data on this hypothesis are scarce. We evaluated the influence of ambient temperature on autonomic nervous activity during sleep in thirty-four preterm neonates (mean ± SD gestational age: 31.4±1.5 weeks, postmenstrual age: 36.2±0.9 weeks). Heart rate variability was assessed as a function of the sleep stage at three different ambient temperatures (thermoneutrality and warm and cool thermal conditions). An elevated ambient temperature was associated with a higher basal heart rate and lower short- and long-term variability in all sleep stages, together with higher sympathetic activity and lower parasympathetic activity. Our study results showed that modification of the ambient temperature led to significant changes in autonomic nervous system control in sleeping preterm neonates. The latter changes are very similar to those observed in infants at risk of SIDS. Our findings may provide greater insight into the thermally-induced disease mechanisms related to SIDS and may help improve prevention strategies. © 2013 Stéphan-Blanchard et al.
Stéphan-Blanchard, E., Chardon, K., Léké, A., Delanaud, S., Bach, V., & Telliez, F. (2013). Heart Rate Variability in Sleeping Preterm Neonates Exposed to Cool and Warm Thermal Conditions. PLoS ONE, 8(7). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0068211