If breathing continuity is broken repeatedly in sleep, it is called sleep apnea. This may lead to serious consequences. There are 3 types: Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which results from a blockage. Central apnea, when the muscles don’t get signals from the brain to breath. Mixed apnea, which may be due to both. Sleep apnea
If breathing continuity is broken repeatedly in sleep, it is called sleep apnea. This may lead to serious consequences. There are 3 types:
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which results from a blockage.
Central apnea, when the muscles don’t get signals from the brain to breath.
Mixed apnea, which may be due to both.
Sleep apnea is more common (almost 50%) in children with Down Syndrome. It is also seen more in premature babies.
Sleep apnea in babies can occur if central nervous system is not mature. There can be other reasons like reflux, respiratory problem, bleeding in brain, congenital problem or heart and blood vessels problem.
Breathing is interrupted in sleep; baby wakes up gasping and may turn blue. In normal babies breathing can be uneven and with pauses, but in babies with sleep apnea, the pauses could be longer.
Sleep apnea in babies can prove potentially dangerous. With a halted breathing, baby cannot get Oxygen and the Carbon dioxide in blood increases. As a result, the heart rate falls down, this is known as Brady cardia.ALTE Apparent Life Threatening Event, an event wherein the baby’s breathing halts. If there are more such events, then the chances of further complications or a sudden death are more. If such long pauses in breathing accompanied by gasping are observed in baby, then it is necessary to consult a doctor. A polysomnogram test is carried out to study breathing, blood oxygen levels, brain transmitting etc. Home cardio respiratory monitors are also available which can record baby’s heart movements.
Treatment of sleep apnea in babies is given according to the acuteness of the problem. Sometimes medicines that help activate central nervous system are prescribed or the breathing, heart rate of the baby is kept under check with a monitor.Continuous Positive Airway Pressure or CRAP machine is required for babies with obstructive sleep apnea. While sleeping, a mask is placed on the nose of the baby and the CRAP machine keeps a constant flow of air into nose, to keep the airway open.
If a baby stops breathing during sleep, parents should slightly nudge the baby. Baby’s hands and feet could be blue in normal conditions. But if baby’s forehead and body becomes blue, parents should call for emergency help. Parents can try giving CPR (Cardio Pulmonary Resuscitation) till the help reaches the baby. If only one person is present with the baby when he stops breathing, then the person should give CPR for two minutes, then call the emergency help, then again start giving CPR till help arrives.