Sleep Apnea Solutions for Babies, Toddlers and Children

Latest update: September 25, 2018

Author Name: Heidi Holvoet, PhD

Which sleep apnea solutions can help your baby, toddler or child? When is a breathing monitor, medication, tonsil surgery, or a CPAP device advised?

In all cases, your doctor, preferably a pediatric sleep specialist, will determine which remedies best fit your child and his condition. The overview below gives the most common and successful solutions for kids of all ages used today. Use them as a step-up to discuss them with your doctor.

Sleep Apnea Solutions for Babies

Sleep apnea in infants under 1 year old is usually Central Sleep Apnea, when a failing brain signal causes the typical breathing pauses. That means that there is no physical blockage of the airways (which is the case with the so-called obstructive type, typical in older children, see below).

The first step is usually a breathing or sleep apnea monitor. While asleep your baby is connected to the monitor. It records her breathing and heart rate and warns you as soon as they reach critical values.

Alternatively, or at the same time, your pediatrician may prescribe medication. Since the breathing pauses are due to a failed brain signal, the medication will work on enhancing or improving that signal.

A CPAP mask is rarely prescribed for babies. Especially since with young babies no physical blocking of the airways is involved a mask most often do not bring much relief.

However, some pediatricians do prescribe it, for example when your baby's sleep apnea is of the obstructive or mixed type.

Sleep Apnea Solutions for Toddlers and Older Children

Obstructive Sleep Apnea is the most common type above 2 years old.

  • The peak age for sleep apnea in kids is between 2 and 6 years old. This is an age where a child's tonsils and adenoids can typically be quite large compared to their throats and airways. That is the reason why tonsil surgery is often very effective.

    The operation, called T&A surgery or Tonsillectomy and Adenoidectomy involves removing both the Tonsils (glands at the back of the throat) and the Adenoids (at the back of the nose).

    This operation is not without risks. It'is a serious surgical procedure. It will of course be avoided when diagnosis is uncertain or if your child is at risk of serious complications.
  • A CPAP device is another possible solution, advised when the T&A surgery is dis advised or does not help.

    CPAP is for Continuous Positive Airway Pressure.

    The CPAP machine compresses the air in the room and sends it to a mask through a hose. The mask covers the nose. the high-pressure air keeps the airways open, avoiding the sleep apnea breathing pauses.

    Although CPAP can be very effective, not all experts agree on its use for youngsters. To start with, it is not comfortable to sleep with a mask, near a machine. Use of CPAP will of course only be done in strong agreement and cooperation between you and your child's doctor.
  • In some cases, the cause can be found in obesity. Losing weight is then a first step towards any treatment. Also other health issues will benefit from losing weight.