Sleep Apnea

Also known as: central sleep apnea, obstructive sleep apnea or OSA and mixed ( central and obstructive ) sleep apnea

What is sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea is a disorder in which airflow ( breathing ) doesn't occur for 20 seconds or longer ( or less if other signs occur like blueness or slow heart ) while a child is sleeping. There are 3 mechanisms for this to occur.
1). Central apnea: this results from either the brain not giving enough instructions to the muscles, or the nerves and muscles that cause normal breathing not responding properly. This can be seen in premature babies, following head injury or the ingestion of toxins. In young infants it may be associated with an apparent life-threatening event ( ALTE ).
2). Obstructive apnea (OSA ) results from something blocking the airway passages leading to poor air exchange. It can results from many causes but is frequently seen with congenital abnormalities of the face and airways, large tonsils and/or adenoids, obesity, and associated with some neurological syndromes.
3). Mixed apnea refers to lack of breathing from a mixture of the central and obstructive causes. Gastrointestinal reflux is thought to one cause of mixed apnea.

What are the signs/symptoms?

These depend on the type of sleep apnea and the age of the infant/ child. They include:
In the infant: pallor, blueness and lack of arm and leg movement. ALTE.
In the older child;
  • Snoring or loud breathing during sleep
  • Restless sleep
  • May awaken frequently throughout the night
  • Enuresis or bedwetting
  • Sleeping in odd positions or with their mouth open
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Depression
  • Frequent respiratory tract infections
  • Changes in personality or development.

How is sleep apnea diagnosed and treated?

At Nicklaus Children’s Sleep Disorders Center, the type of sleep apnea is diagnosed through a “Sleep study”. Treatments will depend on the age of the child and the underlying type and cause.

Reviewed by: Jack Wolfsdorf

This page was last updated on: 17/04/2017 4:40:12 p. m.