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Premature babies at higher risk for sleep apnea

Filed in
  • Pediatrics
  • Infants
  • Sleep apnea

American Academy of Sleep Medicine  |  Nov 08, 2012
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A new study takes a look at the link between preterm births and obstructive sleep apnea. Children born preterm were significantly more likely to be diagnosed with sleep apnea than those born at term.

The study involved a group of nearly 400,000 children between the ages of 2.5 and 6-years-old, born in Australia between 2000 and 2004. It found that babies born at less than 32 weeks were significantly more likely to have the diagnosis of sleep apnea (2.7%) than babies born at term (1.0%). 

The authors of the study, published in the journal SLEEP suggest their findings provide sufficient evidence of an association between preterm birth and obstructive sleep apnea and suggest that screening children born preterm for risk of sleep apnea should be a priority.

To their knowledge this is the largest study investigating preterm birth and sleep apnea diagnosis and suggests that diagnosis of sleep disordered breathing is more prevalent in children born preterm, but not those who are small for their age.

The underlying association between preterm birth and childhood obstructive sleep apnea is not well understood. The association between environmental and birth-related factors also has been investigated; childhood metabolic disease, resulting in anatomical structural changes may also cause childhood obstructive sleep apnea.


  1. 1 lisa marie morris 11 Dec
    wow Carina ! i was born in 1966 1lb 15 oz 
    ive always had troubles like yourself and now just diagnosed at age 53 with sleep apnea
  2. 2 A.N. 30 Jul
    Same experience as Carina Niel (comment 1). Born in 1954 at 26 weeks.  Diagnosed with severe sleep apnea in my 50s.  (Twin brother died shortly after birth due to breathing problems.)

    Would be interested to know if my premature birth is associated with the current sleep apnea.
  3. 3 Carina Niel. 04 Jul
    I was born premature in 1956 at 28 weeks old and only weighted 3 1/2 pounds. I have had trouble breathing properly ever since I can remember, snoring loudly and stop breathing many times a night, I wake up at least 6 times a night and I have never had a good nights sleep where I feel rested, I have always been tired upon waking in the morning and all day long, 3 years ago I was diagnosed with severe sleep apnea. So I was curious is this problem due to being born premature? Did my body functions not develop properly?