Sleep Education

American Academy of Sleep Medicine 

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Infant Sleep Apnea – Symptoms & Risk Factors


If your infant has OSA they may:
  • Have prolonged pauses in breathing that last 20 seconds or longer
  • Have patterns of repeated pauses in breathing that last less than 20 seconds
  • Have related problems such as low oxygen or a slow heartbeat
  • Have needed resuscitation or other urgent care

Risk Factors

Small preterm infants are most likely to have infant sleep apnea. It sometimes occurs in larger preterm or full-term infants. It is less common in infants under the age of six months.

During the first month after birth it occurs in 84 percent of infants who weigh less than 2.2 pounds. The risk decreases to 25 percent for infants who weigh less than 5.5 pounds. It is rare in full-term newborns.

In preterm infants, infant sleep apnea tends to appear between the second and seventh day of life. It is rare on the first day of life. Its presence at birth is usually a sign of another illness.

A variety of medical conditions can cause infant sleep apnea or make it worse. These problems include:
  • Acid reflux
  • Anemia
  • Anesthesia
  • Drugs
  • Infection
  • Lung disease
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Neurological problems
  • Seizures
  • Small upper airway
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.
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