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Sleep, Health, Safety

There are several ways in which a baby's sleep affects their own health and that of their parents. The links in the left-hand navigation provide further information on these issues.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS, or cot death) is perhaps the most well known of these, but sleep related accidental deaths and injuries also happen, and non-accidental harm can occur to infants in sleep-related settings. Lack of sleep related to caring for a baby can also affect parents' health, particularly in the case of depression and accidents.

SIDS is the name given to the unexpected death of an infant for which there is no known cause. Such deaths commonly occur during sleep and can happen wherever babies sleep. No sleep environment is 100% risk-free, however there are well known ways to reduce a baby's risk of SIDS. This information used to be provided to all UK parents in the Department of Health leaflet 'Reduce the risk of cot death' which has now been discontinued. Many NHS Trusts now give parents the latest Safe Sleep Guidance from the Lullaby Trust, or the UNICEF Baby Friendly leaflet 'Caring for your baby at night', but some NHS trusts and local Safeguarding Boards issue their own recommendations.

Safe sleep guidance also covers keeping babies safe from sleep-related accidents. Accidents can occur wherever babies sleep, and parents need to be aware of their baby's sleep environment. See SIDS & Safety for more information.

Babies can also be at risk when tiredness and frustration spill over into anger in situations where carers are sleep-deprived and/or infants cry inconsolably. Many parents experience momentary feelings of helplessness and desperation, especially when trying to cope alone. We provide links to strategies for coping and sources of help and support. Please note, however, that we do not cover clinical issues and a qualified health professional should be consulted for guidance.

For more detailed information on all these topics, see the health professionals section.

Last modified: 3rd December 2017