Obstructed sleep apnea in children occurs when your child experiences brief pauses in their breathing pattern that last from a few seconds to minutes, resulting in your child feeling tired and sleepy the next day.
There are several types of apnea in children:
- Obstructive sleep apnea: This is the most common type of apnea and is usually caused by a blockage of the airway due to enlarged tonsils and adenoidal tissue near the nasal passages.
- Central sleep apnea: This happens when the part of the brain that controls breathing doesn’t start or maintain the breathing process properly. Common in very premature infants.
- Mixed sleep apnea: A combination of central and obstructive apnea, mixed apnea is usually a sign of an immature breathing pattern and may occur when a child is awake or asleep.
A sleep medicine expert can help get to the bottom of your child’s sleep issues with an overnight sleep test called polysomnography, which will measure your child’s quality, quantity and breathing patterns during sleep.
Depending on the results from your child’s sleep study, treatments for apnea may include:
- medications: to relieve nasal congestion and allergies
- increased activity and better nutrition: recommended for overweight children
- continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP): a nasal and/or mouth mask that forces air to send oxygenated air into the air passages and lungs
- surgery: to remove large tonsils and adenoids that make it difficult to breath
From Nemours' KidsHealth
- Apnea of Prematurity
- Obstructive Sleep Apnea
- Enlarged Adenoids
- Sleep and Newborns
- Sleep and Your 1- to 3-Month-Old
- What Causes Night Terrors?
- Should I Be Worried About My Child's Nightmares?
- Sleep and Your Preschooler
- Sleep and Your 1- to 2-Year-Old
- Sleep and Your 4- to 7-Month-Old
- Sleep and Your 8- to 12-Month-Old
- Bruxism (Teeth Grinding or Clenching)
- Sleep Problems in Teens
- All About Sleep
- Night Terrors
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Sleep and Your 1- to 3-Month-Old
Just when you think that getting more shut-eye is a far-off dream, your baby will begin to sleep longer stretches at night. Baby's sleep cycle is getting closer to yours, and he or she may be feeding less often at night.
But don't assume you'll be hitting the snooze button just yet. At this stage, "sleeping through the night" is considered to be a stretch of only 5 or 6 hours.
How Long Will My Baby Sleep?
Since babies this age are more awake, alert, and aware of their surroundings during daylight hours, they're more likely to be tired at night and sleep. But the range of normal is still very wide.
Infants up to 3 months old should get 14 to 17 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period, says the National Sleep Foundation. Many will have settled into a daily sleep routine of two or three naps during the day, followed by a longer "sleeping through the night" stretch after a late-night feeding.
How Should Babies Sleep?
The American of Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends room-sharing without bed-sharing for or at least the first 6 months or, ideally, until a baby's first birthday. This is when the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) is highest.
Room-sharing is when you place your baby's crib, portable crib, play yard, or bassinet in your own bedroom instead of in a separate nursery. This keeps baby nearby and helps with feeding, comforting, and monitoring baby at night.
While room-sharing is safe, putting your baby to sleep in bed with you is not. Bed-sharing increases the risk of SIDS and other sleep-related deaths.
Follow these recommendations for a safe sleep environment for your little one:
- Always place your baby on his or her back to sleep, not on the stomach or side. The rate of SIDS has gone way down since the AAP introduced this recommendation in 1992.
- Use a firm sleep surface. Cover the mattress with a sheet that fits snugly. Make sure your crib, bassinet, or play yard meets current safety standards.
- Do not put anything else in the crib or bassinet. Keep plush toys, pillows, blankets, unfitted sheets, quilts, comforters, sheepskins, and bumper pads out of your baby’s sleep area.
- Avoid overheating. Dress your baby for the room temperature, and don't overbundle. Watch for signs of overheating, such as sweating or feeling hot to the touch.
- Keep your baby away from smokers. Secondhand smoke increases the risk of SIDS.
- Put your baby to sleep with a pacifier. But if your baby rejects the pacifier, don't force it. If the pacifier falls out during sleep you do not have to replace it. If you're breastfeeding, wait until breastfeeding is firmly established.
- Watch out for other hazards. Avoid items with cords, ties, or ribbons that can wrap around a baby's neck, and objects with any kind of sharp edge or corner. Look around for things that your baby can touch from a seated or standing position in the crib. Hanging mobiles, wall hangings, pictures, draperies, and window blind cords could be harmful if they are within a baby's reach.
Helping Your Baby Sleep
If you haven't already, start a bedtime routine that will be familiar and relaxing for your baby. Bathing, reading, and singing can soothe babies and signal an end to the day. Be consistent and your baby will soon associate these steps with sleeping.
If you rock your baby to sleep before bedtime, your little one may expect to be rocked to sleep after nighttime awakenings. Instead, try putting your baby into a crib or bassinet while drowsy but still awake. This way your baby will learn to fall asleep on his or her own.
Some babies squirm, whine, and even cry a little before falling back to sleep on their own. Unless you think that your baby is hungry or ill, see what happens if you leave your baby alone for a few minutes — he or she might settle down.
If your baby wakes during the period that you want him or her to sleep, keep activity to a minimum. Try to keep the lights low and resist the urge to play with or talk to your baby. Change or feed your baby and return him or her to the crib or bassinet.
If your baby is waking early for a morning feeding, some small changes may allow a slight shift in schedule. You might try waking your baby for the late-night feeding at a time that suits your sleep schedule. For instance, if your baby sleeps after a 7 p.m. feeding and wakes up at 2 a.m. to eat, try waking the baby to feed at 11 p.m. and then put him or her down to sleep until an early-morning feeding at 5 a.m. or 6 a.m. It may take a few nights to establish this routine, but being consistent will improve your chances of success.
When to Call the Doctor
Some infants at this age will start sleeping through the night, but there is a wide range of normal. If you have questions about your baby’s sleep, talk with your doctor.
Reviewed by: Mary L. Gavin, MD
Date reviewed: December 08, 2016