Sleep apnea is a condition when an individual’s breathing is interrupted during sleep. In this situation, the individual might stop breathing repeatedly during his/her sleep, which might lead to an inadequate supply of oxygen to the brain and other parts of the body. Sleep apnea can affect anyone of any age group, even infants and children. Sleep apnea is divided into two parts namely Obstructive Sleep Apnea and Central Sleep Apnea. Obstructive Sleep Apnea is normally found in children between the age group of 3-6 years.
What to know about infant sleep apnea?
Sleep-related disorder in infants is known as infant sleep apnea which involves reductions and pauses in breathing, while the infant is sleeping.
- This situation can be central, obstructive or mixed in infants.
- The frequency of disrupted breathing increases during the stage of rapid eye movement sleep (REM) in infants.
- These breathing problems can lead to severe complications as the infant might not have enough oxygen in the blood.
- In the case of sleep apnea, the infant can be at risk of losing consciousness or developing a slow heartbeat.
- Normally, central apneas occur in larger premature infants and full-term infants.
- Infant sleep apnea can either be a developmental problem resulting from an immature brainstem, or a secondary problem occurring from a medical condition.
Symptoms of infant sleep apnea
Some of the symptoms of infant sleep apnea include prolonged pauses in breathing (20 seconds or longer), patterns of repeated pauses in breathing, turning pale or blue, problems such as slow heartbeat or low oxygen and requirement of resuscitation or any other urgent care.
Reasons for infant sleep apnea
Sleep apnea is common in babies who were born prematurely. Some of the other factors responsible for causing sleep apnea in infants include bleeding in the brain, exposure to drugs or poisons, birth defects, infection, respiratory diseases, an imbalance in body chemistry, gastrointestinal problems, dehydration, fever and problems in heart or blood vessels.
There are medical conditions as well, which are considered as the cause for infant sleep apnea. These medical problems are counted as acid reflux, anemia, anesthesia, drugs, lung disease, metabolic disorders, seizures, small upper airway and neurological problems.
Treatment of infant sleep apnea
The treatment of infant sleep apnea depends on its severity. The doctor might suggest a home apnea monitor track the breathing of the baby and the heart rate and may prescribe medication to stimulate the nervous system. Infants or children suffering from obstructive sleep apnea are given a continuous positive airway pressure machine (CPAP) to use, which helps in keeping the airway open by blowing air into the nose through a mask during sleep.
Complications of infant sleep apnea
Infants with sleep apnea normally don’t have any long term complications from this condition, as it generally subsides on its own when the child matures. But in rare cases, sleep apnea can cause extreme complications, which can be fatal if the baby is born prematurely. The infant might experience a severe drop in heart rate or lose consciousness and may need to be resuscitated.