News Video | Policy | GPs | Hospitals | Medical | Mental Health | Welfare | Search


Sleep Problems Come To A Head


An Auckland plastic surgeon is proposing hospital trials of a sleepwrap to help combat a dramatic increase in head deformities since the "back to sleep" campaign was introduced.

A craniofacial specialist based at Middlemore Hospital, Dr Tristan de Chalain said the "back is best" message was important in helping to reduce the number of cot deaths and he was reluctant to contradict it, however, it had also resulted in a worldwide surge in the condition called occipital deformational (or positional) plagiocephaly (flat head).

"Basically it appears that babies who always sleep with their head in the same position dramatically increase the risk of developing head deformation.," said Dr de Chalain.

Dr de Chalain is proposing to trial Safe T Sleep Sleepwraps on neonates in the Special Care Baby Unit and on older babies aged up to 12 months in paediatric and surgical wards, to see whether varied head positions can be selected and maintained during sleep.

Safe T Sleeps have been used by New Zealand families for the past eight years as a means to ensure a safe sleeping position by helping to prevent babies climbing and falling, "creeping" up or down in their beds, or rolling onto their tummies.

Dr de Chalain said the seriousness of the head problem should not be underestimated. The number of skull deformities had dramatically risen internationally and in Auckland referrals for positional plagiocephaly had increased by more than 300% over the past three to four years.

"Something that starts as a deformation can persist, and asymmetry of the shape of a child's head may well affect quality of life. While the great majority improve with treatment, and in many, the residual deformation is masked by hair growth, not all will resolve completely and a small percentage may be severe enough to require corrective surgery," he said.

"Awareness and prevention are the keys to reducing the increasing number of problem cases," said Dr de Chalain.

Options for prevention include turning babies' heads to alternate sides when putting them to bed on their backs, in order to prevent prolonged pressure on the same spot.

Putting the baby to bed at alternate ends of the cot or placing a safe toy to one side may encourage the child to keep its head in a particular direction. However, many parents found this difficult to achieve and some babies were resistant to efforts to correct their sleeping position, said Dr de Chalain.

"If we can find a way to reliably and safely control the position of babies' heads during sleep, I would hope we can use it to help prevent the problem of skull deformities from occurring and to assist treatment of those who have already developed the condition," he said.

The study has to be approved by the Auckland Region Ethics Committee before it can proceed and babies would only be included in the trial with their parents' informed consent.


© Scoop Media

Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines

Legendary Bassist David Friesen Plays Wellington’s Newest Jazz Venue

Friesen is touring New Zealand to promote his latest album Another Time, Another Place, recorded live at Auckland's Creative Jazz Club in 2015. More>>

Howard Davis Review: The Father - Descending Into The Depths of Dementia

Florian Zeller's dazzling drama The Father explores the effects of a deeply unsettling illness that affects 62,000 Kiwis, a number expected to grow to 102,000 by 2030. More>>

Howard Davis Review: Blade Runner Redivivus

When Ridley Scott's innovative, neo-noir, sci-fi flick Blade Runner was originally released in 1982, at a cost of over $45 million, it was a commercial bomb. More>>

14-21 October: New Zealand Improv Festival In Wellington

Imagined curses, Shibuya’s traffic, the apocalypse, and motherhood have little in common, but all these and more serve as inspiration for the eclectic improvised offerings coming to BATS Theatre this October for the annual New Zealand Improv Festival. More>>


Bird Of The Year Off To A Flying Start

The competition asks New Zealanders to vote for their favourite bird in the hopes of raising awareness of the threats they face. More>>

Scoop Review Of Books:
Jenny Abrahamson's John & Charles Enys: Castle Hill Runholders, 1864-1891

This volume will be of interest to a range of readers interested in the South Island high country, New Zealand’s natural environment, and the history of science. More>>