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Central Sleep Apnea

What is central sleep apnea?

Central sleep apnea is a pause in breathing during sleep without giving effort to breathe.  Your child may have multiple episodes of central sleep apnea over the course of a night. This is common in premature babies and infants up to approximately 12 months of age but can been seen in individuals of all ages. At times, obstructive sleep apnea (when something obstructs, or blocks, the upper airway during sleep) can cause central sleep apneas to occur.

What are the signs of central sleep apnea?

Signs of central sleep apnea occur when your child is transitioning in or out of sleep or after a temporary change in brain activity levels (arousal) during sleep. Some of these signs may be due to obstructive sleep apnea.

These signs can include:

  • a pause in breathing followed by loud gasping with return to normal breathing pattern
  • difficulty staying asleep
  • snoring with extra effort to breathe during sleep
  • waking up feeling short of breath

How is it diagnosed?

Your sleep provider will have your child complete a sleep study. Your provider may also recommend tests to check the anatomy (structure of body) to rule out other causes.

How should I care for my child?

If your child is being treated for obstructive sleep apnea, the central sleep apneas usually go away on their own. Central sleep apneas are not treated unless they are very frequent, have large drops in oxygen levels or increase of carbon dioxide levels.

When should I call the provider?

Call the provider if your child:

  • stops breathing for more than 20 seconds at a time
  • lips or fingers are turning blue while sleeping
  • has more than 40 apnea episodes during the night


This information is not specific to your child but provides general information. If you have any questions, please call your clinic.

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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