Signs & Causes of Sleep Apnea In Babies

How Common Is Sleep Apnea in Babies & How to Prevent It

Along with your adorable baby comes a lot of adorable sounds… coos and sighs and yawns! And while snoring is fairly typical in babies, particularly because their nasal passages are so small, sleep apnea can be more serious. If you find that your baby struggles to breathe, gasps for air, and/or snores loudly during every sleep, it’s possible she suffers from sleep apnea. As with all things baby-related, if there’s anything that gives you pause or causes concern, it’s best to consult with your pediatrician. While most babies will outgrow snoring as they reach certain milestones, it can be scary! Keep reading to learn the signs and causes of sleep apnea in babies.

Can babies have sleep apnea?

Short pauses in a baby’s nighttime breathing is fairly typical, however when the pauses become too long, a baby may have infant apnea. This usually gets better over time and it has yet to be determined why some babies gasp for air and have pauses in their breathing, and others do not. The brain controls breathing automatically which in deep sleep can sound low and shallow. But obstructive sleep apnea is a sleep disorder in which your child's breathing is partially or completely blocked repeatedly during sleep. The condition may be due to narrowing or blockage of the upper airway during sleep. The most common condition leading to obstructive sleep apnea is enlarged tonsils and adenoids.

What are the signs of sleep apnea in babies?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the signs of sleep apnea in babies may include:

  • Snoring
  • Pauses in breathing
  • Restless sleep
  • Snorting, coughing or choking
  • Mouth breathing
  • Nighttime sweating
  • Bed-wetting
  • Sleep terrors

What does sleep apnea in babies sound like?

If night after night you find yourself wondering how do i know if my baby has sleep apnea, it would be wise to ask your pediatrician. That’s because sleep apnea sounds like really bad/loud snoring, noisy breathing, and gasps for air that can last up to 10 seconds! If this is the case, consult with your pediatrician. If this happens every single night, and/or while napping, it’s important to have your baby assessed as other medical conditions might also be present.

How common is sleep apnea in babies?

The good news is that sleep apnea in babies affects a small percentage – between one and five. Even better news is that when it’s detected early, sleep apnea can be treated to prevent other long-term complications.

Does sleep apnea cause SIDS?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), a small percentage of children who die from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) have apnea symptoms prior to death. But infant sleep apnea has not been established as a risk factor for SIDS.

What vitamin deficiency causes sleep apnea?

Vitamin D helps fight disease, reduce depression, help maintain heart and bone health, and offers a host of other benefits. But when a person is deficient in vitamin D, one of the things it can affect is quality of sleep. While a vitamin D deficiency isn’t the only or even primary cause of poor sleep quality in babies, recent studies do show a connection between lower vitamin D levels and sleep apnea in infants.

Can a 6 month old have sleep apnea?

It is possible for a 6 month old to have sleep apnea. If you notice your baby snoring consistently, breathing loudly, pausing for air, and/or gasping for breath, it’s possible she has sleep apnea. It’s important to note that regular snoring should not be a cause for concern. Baby’s have tiny airways which can fill with mucus or fluids. This may cause them to snore and/or make whistling sounds while they sleep, but unless your baby has the symptoms of sleep apnea (see above), chances are she’s just snoring.

Can a 1 year old have sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea can happen at any age but typically affects children between 2-6 years old.
Though snoring is common in babies due to their small airways, especially if they have a cold, it shouldn’t be cause for concern unless the snoring is loud and persistent, they frequently gasp for air while sleeping, and/or sleep in strange positions. See above for more signs of sleep apnea.

Can reflux cause sleep apnea in babies?

It’s common that all infants experience acid reflux and/or GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) at some point. GERD occurs when stomach acid flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach, and becomes more common at around 4 months. This tends to go away by the time your baby is around 18 months. GERD can cause some difficulty in getting your baby to sleep at night and also cause restless sleep. It’s best to consult with your pediatrician if you suspect that your child has prolonged acid reflux and/or sleep apnea.

Does infant sleep apnea go away?

According to AASM, infant sleep apnea tends to go away as your child grows and matures. As your child grows and develops, their upper airway gets larger which can make their breathing easier.

What do I do if my baby has sleep apnea?

If, in fact, your baby has been diagnosed with sleep apnea, consult with your pediatrician for the best course of treatment. Sometimes medication may be offered like a nasal steroid that can provide relief to sleep apnea symptoms. In other cases, the removal of tonsils and adenoids can help when your child is a little bit older.
Of if you’re curious how to prevent sleep apnea in babies, it’s good to follow these guidelines:

  • No smoking! Smoking around your baby is an absolute no-no. Both cigarette and marijuana smoke can create a serious health risk for your baby.
  • Pacifiers work! If possible, once she is one month old, encourage your baby to use a pacifier. The sucking is soothing and also helps reduce the risks of SIDS.
  • Put baby to sleep on her back for ALL sleep, ALL the time until she’s 1 year old
  • A pacifier may help reduce signs of sleep apnea

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