Three to four hour polygraphic sleep studies were carried out in 10 infants, five with upper respiratory infection and five with metabolic alkalosis secondary to vomiting during and after recovery from illness. During upper respiratory infection, the main abnormality detected was brief (greater than 3 less than 6 seconds) or prolonged (greater than 6 seconds) attacks of obstructive apnoea. Other indices of apnoea were similar to recovery data. Gross body movements were also increased. In infants with metabolic alkalosis indices of central apnoea were significantly increased when compared with recovery or case control data. Prolonged (greater than 15 seconds) attacks of central apnoea and obstructive apnoea (greater than 6 seconds) were only observed during illness. Gross body movements and periodic breathing were also increased. These findings suggest that the functional consequences of apparently 'mild' illnesses in young infants may be greater than is generally suspected and perhaps relevant to mechanism(s) of death in sudden infant death syndrome.
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