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Sleep Apnea In Babies: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

5 min read

Sleep Apnea in Babies
The magic of getting a newborn to hand is just beyond words. Everything seems so surprising, strange in the first few months, while you are a mom for the first time. We just adore when the newborn sleep, cry, and their every moment.  Few babies sleep for a long time while there are others who are disturbed with their sleep. It is here the real challenge arises for the mom. Let’s have a brief look at the sleep education of babies.
Disturbance during sleep can be due to sleep-related breathing disorder. It is not as simple as it sounds. If not discovered on time, it can cause various complications. It involves reductions and pauses in breathing. Partial reductions in breathing that occur during an infant’s sleep are called “hypopneas.” Likewise, complete pauses in breathing are called “apneas.” Here we are dealing with symptoms, causes, and treatments.

What Is Sleep Apnea In Babies?

Sleep Apnea is a potentially dangerous breathing disorder observed in babies while they sleep. In this condition, the baby will experience a repeated interruption in their breathing.  Generally, it is observed that this frequency of reduction increases during the rapid eye movement.

What Are The Types Of Sleep Apnea In Babies?

Depending on the cause, the Sleep apnea in babies is categorized into three.

  1. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA): Obstructive apneas happens due to a blockage in the upper airway. This happens when the soft tissue in the backside of the throat cave in and blocks the airway during the sleep. This type of Sleep apnea is rare in healthy babies. It is commonly found in larger preterm babies.
  2. Central Sleep Apnea (CSA): Central sleep apnea happens when the baby’s body decreases or stops its effort to breathe as the brain fails to signal the related muscles to breathe. This happens due to some issues in the brain or in the heart. It is most commonly contracted by children older than one year.
  3. Mixed Apnea: As the name implies, this is a combination of OSA and CSA. In this type, a central apnea will be straight away, followed by an obstructive apnea. Small premature infants used to contract this type of apnea.

How Frequently Is Sleep Apnea Found In Babies?

Sleep apnea is not a rare issue among premature babies and that too, who weigh less than 2.2 pounds. The preterm infants are more likely to suffer from this issue when compared to the full-term infants and those who are under six months of age. Sleep apnea is called apnea of prematurity in the babies born before 37 weeks of pregnancy. While babies born at 37 weeks and after will have the apnea of infancy.

What Causes Sleep Apnea?

Infant sleep apnea can happen due to two reasons.

  • It happens as a consequence of a developmental issue from an immature brainstem.
  • It also can happen as a consequence of an underlying medical condition. Such as
  • Birth defects
  • Some respiratory ailments
  • Some issues with blood vessels
  • Wrong calcium or glucose level
  • A side effect of some drugs
  • Exposure to harmful chemicals
  • Metabolic disorder
  • Gastrointestinal issues like acid reflux
  • Cardiac issues
  • Neurological issues

 What Are The Risk Factors For Sleep Apnea?

Some risk factors increase the chances of sleep apnea in babies.

  • Hereditary Factor: Your child can contract it through genes. If there is another member of your family experience this condition, your child has more chance to contract it
  • High Birth Weight: Overweight babies pose a higher possibility of contracting sleep apnea.
  • Inborn Physical Defects: The birth defects in the baby’s face, neck, and parts of the mouth can increase the risk of sleep apnea. Likewise, inborn genetic issues (like Down’s syndrome) can also increase the risk of sleep apnea in babies
  • Preterm Delivery: It is found that preterm babies are more in numbers who suffer sleep apnea due to their underdeveloped respiratory system.

What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Apnea?

The main symptom is an irregularity in breathing patterns. Some babies with sleep apnea tend to stop breathing for 20 seconds or longer during sleep. Obviously, their heart rate also slows down incredibly.
Other symptoms of sleep apnea include wetting the bed, comparatively slow growth rate, and trouble with morning headaches. While there are a few kids who are hyperactive and aggressive for no reason, these symptoms vary from every kid. Having sleepiness in the daytime is a problem for one, and for others, it could be even sweating during sleep. The rib cage of a few infants will be going inward as they inhale, and they snore because of their trouble for breathing. You can even observe a few infants who sleep with their neck extended as well.

How Is Sleep Apnea Diagnosed?

The doctors will be doing the Polysomnogram and other physical tests besides going through the entire medical history of the kids. Depending on the condition of the baby, the number of tests like oximetry and electrocardiogram will be done.

How Is Sleep Apnea Treated?

With the advanced treatments in the medical field, there are multiple options that are suggested based on the condition and severity of the child. If it is the underlying issue that causes sleep apnea in your child, that issue will be treated. A few of them may include medication that involves steroids. It also includes the removal of tonsils and adenoids. The other options include positive airway pressure therapy and using oral appliances, which enhances smooth airflow.  However, more often, only short-term treatment, let be a machine or medicines, will be required as the infant sleep apnea will disappear as the child grows up.

Are There Complications Of Sleep Apnea?

The complications include obesity and enhance the risk of heart stroke and problems with blood circulation. There are even cases where the issue is with the cardiovascular systems. Ensure that when you witness the symptoms, you consult a doctor; otherwise, there will be a strain on the heart of the baby.

What Should You Do If A Baby With Sleep Apnea Stops Breathing?

You will be suggested to use the positive airway pressure machine, as suggested by the doctor. This will keep the airway open, and the baby should fine very soon. Consult a doctor and get their advice beforehand. However, call 911 immediately if your baby lay unresponsive when you nudge or if the forehead or body turns blue.
Note: It is very important to learn how to perform infant CPR for the parents of babies with sleep apnea. In case the baby lay unresponsive, administer it until the medical help arrives.

How To Prevent Sleep Apnea In Babies?

Early diagnosis is the best way to prevent complications of sleep apnea. When you consult the right pediatrician, they will be suggesting the sleep tests which help them to understand the condition of the baby or the kid. At the time, overweight is even trouble for the kid in breathing, and there are many such suggestions which the doctors give you after conducting tests like polysomnography.
Stop getting worried as there are many advanced treatments for every health condition. Just be ensure and get to know from the doctor what are the complications which your baby might be witnessing. As well ask them what the precautions which you need to take in those circumstances are. Use the medications and precautions to take care of the newborn properly. Always stay prepared and prevent any sort of troubles. Reach the doctor beforehand when you feel there is a problem to keep your infant comfortable.

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