​During sleep, every child has brief pauses in his or her breathing pattern which are known as apneas. Usually this is completely normal. Sometimes, however, apnea may be prolonged and happen frequently, making the breathing pattern irregular and abnormal. Abnormal apnea might actually cause decreased oxygen levels in the child’s body and disrupt sleep.Sleep disorders (or apnea) in children may range from difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep or waking up.
There are three types of apnea:
  • Obstructive: A common type of apnea in children, obstructive apnea is caused by an obstruction of the airway (such as enlarged tonsils and adenoids). As many as one to three percent of otherwise healthy pre-school-age kids have obstructive apnea.
  • Central: Central apnea occurs when the part of the brain that controls breathing doesn't properly maintain the breathing process. In very premature infants, it's seen fairly often because the respiratory center in the brain is immature.
  • Mixed: Mixed apnea is a combination of central and obstructive apnea and is seen particularly in infants or young children who have abnormal control of breathing. Mixed apnea may occur when a child is awake or asleep.