University of Durham

Influential research on parent/infant sleep

Researching and communicating evidence-based practices to improve infant safety at night and parental quality of life.

All new parents have first-hand experience of the challenges of caring for babies during the night. Concerns about Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), understanding the factors of physical closeness between parents and baby and coping with lack of sleep are just a few of the issues that Durham University’s Sleep Laboratory has sought to tackle.

During the last 20 years the Laboratory has substantially increased parents’ understanding of infant sleep, with an emphasis on safety and care. Through the Laboratory’s established partnerships with local hospitals, a range of academic partners around the world and with parent organisations, it has been able to translate its research into practice. Its online resource, Infant Sleep Information Source, and associated app are well-respected professionally and widely used by the public.

As a result of the Laboratory’s research and its partnerships with other organisations, the rate of SIDS has reduced and several safe sleeping practices in the UK and world-wide have been promoted. For example, the use of side-car cribs – cots connected to the mother’s bed without a barrier – is now being seen in post-natal wards across the UK and in Europe, USA and Australia. Among the effects are easier breastfeeding and improved responsiveness to babies during early life. Ultimately, the Laboratory’s work gives confidence to parents on how best to care for and keep their babies safe at night.