Some aspects of health related to infant sleep have been heavily researched, while others are poorly understood.
The relationship of infant sleep environments to sudden unexplained infant deaths, for instance, have been the subject of hundreds of studies -- while researchers still barely understand the infant health consequences of the various forms of sleep training currently being employed and recommended.
Issues affecting infant survival include unexplained mortality (SIDS), accidental deaths, and deaths from injuries that are violently inflicted (Non Accidental Head Injuries). Sleeplessness, inconsolable crying, and colic are all issues that trigger parental frustration, and may increase the risk of post-natal depression compounded by parental sleep deprivation, leading not only to rare instances of inflicted brain trauma, but accidental deaths resulting from ill-considered sleep locations, and failure to be alert to SIDS risks.
Health professionals have to assess the risks of sleep-related issues from the perspectives of both parent and infant -- but there is little guidance on how to balance the risks that may confront families attempting to cope with a new infant -- especially where families also have other children to care for.
In the pages that follow we cover some of the most common issues where sleep and health intersect for parents and babies -- however we do not cover clinical sleep problems and a qualified health professional should be consulted for guidance.