Obstructive sleep apnea is common in adults; OSA also occurs in children, especially in preschoolers. Central sleep apnea is most common in middle-aged and older adults. But did you know that infants can have sleep apnea too?
Primary sleep apnea of infancy is most common in small, preterm infants; it is rare in full-term newborns.
During the first month after birth it may occur in about 84 percent of infants who weigh less than 2.2 pounds. The risk decreases to about 25 percent for infants who weigh less than 5.5 pounds.
Apneas that occur in larger premature infants and full-term infants tend to be “central” apneas. These apneas occur when the body decreases or stops its effort to breathe.
The majority of apneas that occur in small, premature infants are “mixed” apneas. These breathing pauses involve an obstructive apnea that directly follows a central apnea.
An obstructive apnea involves a halt in airflow despite an ongoing effort to breathe. It occurs when soft tissue in the back of the throat collapses and blocks the upper airway.
Primary sleep apnea of infancy may be a developmental problem; it may be related to the immaturity of the brain.
It also may be caused or made worse by a variety of medical problems. These include anemia, an infection, acid reflux and chronic lung disease.
In most cases short-term treatment is required. The good news is that primary sleep apnea of infancy tends to go away as the child grows and matures. Long-term complications are rare for most children with primary sleep apnea of infancy.