Understanding Sleep Apnea in Babies – Part One

Sleep apnea is a common but serious disorder. When a person who has sleep apnea is asleep, her breathing patterns are interrupted. Sleep apnea is divided into three different types:

  • Obstructive sleep apnea, which occurs when there is a blockage in the flow of air
  • Central sleep apnea, which occurs when there is no obstruction but the brain instead doesn’t send the correct signals to the breathing muscles
  • Mixed apnea, which occurs when someone has a blockage and as well as an interference in the brain’s signals.

It might surprise you to discover that even babies can have sleep apnea. For babies who have sleep apnea, central sleep apnea is the most common type found. Obstructive sleep apnea is the most common type in children over the age of 1, as well as adults.

Some babies are more prone to sleep apnea. For example, children that have specific congenital conditions like Down Syndrome tend to have higher rates of sleep apnea. In fact, it’s estimated that half or more of all children with Down Syndrome will develop obstructive sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is also more common in premature babies. In fact, if a baby that is born before the 37th week of pregnancy, it’s referred to as “apnea of prematurity.” For full-term babies that are born after the 37th week of pregnancy, it’s known as “apnea of infancy.”

Over the next several posts, we’ll take a more in-depth look at sleep apnea in babies. We’ll look at the possible causes, and we’ll also consider some of the long-term implications of sleep apnea. We’ll also take a look at what kinds of treatments are available, as well as what you should do if you discover or if you suspect that your baby has sleep apnea.