Treatment Options for Infant Sleep Apnea
Infant sleep apnea occurs primarily in premature babies, but it can affect any infant. There are different types of sleep apnea with different causes, and some babies experience a mixed apnea that has several contributing factors.
We’ll explain what types of treatments are available for infant sleep apnea, including sleep specialists and sleep studies that may aid in treatment.
Types of Apnea
First, a brief explanation of the main types of sleep apnea. Central sleep apnea, or CSA, is caused by underdevelopment of the brain. The brain fails to properly signal the muscles a baby requires to breathe properly.
Obstructive sleep apnea, or OSA, is caused by a physical blockage of the airway. Some babies experience a combination of both, known as mixed apnea.
According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM), most infants with sleep apnea develop normally and lose their apnea symptoms before their first birthday. In these cases, short-term treatment options may be ideal. This may include the use of a machine to help your baby breathe smoothly, or medicine that stimulates proper breathing.
Some parents find it useful to use an apnea alarm, which monitors for signs the infant is having an episode and makes a loud noise. The noise either wakes the baby, who begins breathing normally once again, or wakes the parents, who can check on their sleeping baby.
In babies with severe sleep apnea, long-term treatment may be necessary. According to AASM, a baby’s apnea may be worsened by other contributing factors, like an underlying medical condition, medicine use or another sleep disorder. In these cases, it may be necessary to see an infant sleep specialist or visit a sleep disorder center.
A sleep specialist will take an in-depth look at your baby’s health history, birth conditions and current symptoms to determine what may be causing her sleep difficulties. Your doctor may suggest an overnight sleep study to pinpoint the problem.
In a sleep study, known as a polysomnogram, experts will watch and carefully analyze your baby’s sleep patterns, vital signs and movement to determine the underlying cause. Don’t worry—a parent will typically stay the night with their baby if a sleep study is prescribed, so you’ll be by her side through the whole experience.
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