Research: Baby's sleep position is major factor in 'flat-headedness'

Nov 19, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- A baby's sleep position is the best predictor of a misshapen skull condition known as deformational plagiocephaly ? or the development of flat spots on an infant's head -- according to findings reported by Arizona State University scientists in the December issue of the journal Pediatrics.

Analyzing the largest database to date, more than 20,000 children, the ASU researchers found that the number of babies who have developed flat-headedness has dramatically increased since 1992. The increase coincides with the American Academy of Pediatrics launch of a "Back to Sleep" educational campaign that recommended parents place their infants on their backs to reduce the risk of .

"We looked at a number of risk factors, but the largest factor was the sleep position of the baby," said Brian Verrelli, an assistant professor in ASU's School of Life Sciences and researcher in the Center for Evolutionary Functional Genomics at the Biodesign Institute.

The condition is thought to occur when babies spend too much time in one position. The research team found that sleep position, and specifically, head position, are linked to flat-headedness. Babies who slept on their right-side or left-side tended to have right-side and left-side flat spots, respectively.

The study, "Risk Factors Associated With Deformational Plagiocephaly," also found that boys were twice as likely as girls to have the condition (a nearly perfect 2-to-1 ratio) and also more common in firstborn infants, babies with low birth weight, in breech and transverse positions in the womb, and in multiple births, specifically fraternal twins.

The study was designed to statistically evaluate the independent and interacting effects of biological and environmental risk factors that lead to deformational plagiocephaly, in an attempt to provide future guidance for clinical treatment.

"The unprecedented size of the sample in our study allowed us to identify potential factors, such as maternal prenatal conditions and low birth weight, that were previously unrecognized in smaller cohort studies. These other factors need to be explored further before we can begin to piece together the entire puzzle," said Jessica Joganic, who was an ASU undergraduate student at the time. She is the lead author on the study.

However, independent of the biological and environmental factors, the findings showed that sleep position was the best predictor of deformational plagiocephaly, and one that could be addressed by altering behavior, according to Verrelli.

The research was part of Joganic's undergraduate honors thesis as a student in ASU's Barrett, the Honors College. Joganic earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology in 2008 from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She currently is pursuing a doctorate in physical anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis.

Also collaborating in the study, which appeared online this week, were John Lynch, an ASU evolutionary biologist, and Timothy Littlefield with Cranial Technologies, Inc., in Phoenix, which supplied the database of more than 20,000 children who were treated for deformational plagiocephaly between 1990 and 2007.

Provided by Arizona State University (news : web)

Explore further: Canada pledges $440 million to vaccinate poor children

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Using a fan during sleep lowers SIDS risk by 72 percent

Oct 06, 2008

Infants who slept in a bedroom with a fan ventilating the air had a 72 percent lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome compared to infants who slept in a bedroom without a fan, according to a new study by the Kaiser Permanente ...

Lack of time on tummy shown to hinder achievement

Aug 06, 2008

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) is urging parents and caregivers to ensure that babies get enough "tummy time" throughout the day while they are awake and supervised, in light of a recent survey of therapists ...

SIDS link: Low blood pressure in preterm infants

Dec 08, 2008

Scientists from Monash University, Melbourne have shown that infants born prematurely have lower blood pressure during sleep in the first six months of life, compared to healthy, full-term infants.

Less sleep, more TV leads to overweight infants and toddlers

Apr 07, 2008

Infants and toddlers who sleep less than 12 hours a day are twice as likely to become overweight by age 3 than children who sleep longer. In addition, high levels of television viewing combined with less sleep elevates the ...

Recommended for you

Health care organizations see value of telemedicine

Nov 27, 2014

(HealthDay)—Health care organizations are developing and implementing telemedicine programs, although many have yet to receive reimbursement, according to a report published by Foley & Lardner.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.