Sleep Apnea in Babies
Complete pauses in breathing are called “apneas.” In infancy the frequency of these events increases during the stage of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. The apneas in infant sleep apnea may be central, obstructive or mixed. Central apneas occur when your body decreases or stops its effort to breathe.
A variety of medical conditions can cause infant sleep apnea or make it worse. These problems include:
Small upper airway
Infants with infant sleep apnea may need a machine to provide breathing support. They also may need treatment with medications. Both of these options tend to be short-term treatments.
Infant sleep apnea tends to go away as the child grows and matures. Ninety-eight percent of preterm infants will be free of symptoms by 40 weeks after conception. The problem is more likely to persist longer in infants who were born less than 28 weeks after conception.
How is it treated?
An infant who has persistent breathing problems during sleep may need an overnight sleep study. This study is called a polysomnogram. It charts your child’s brain waves, heartbeat, and breathing during sleep. It also records arm and leg movements. The sleep study will reveal the nature of your infant’s breathing problem. It also will show the severity of the problem. The study requires your child to spend the night at the sleep center. A parent or guardian also will need to stay at the sleep center with the child.