Why Does My Baby Gasp For Air While Sleeping?

A baby gasping for air in the middle of their sleep is quite normal. It’s caused by a condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) which means that excess mucous is causing a blockage in the air, or it could be due to softer vocal cord tissues than normal. Nearly 3% of infants face sleep apnea in the middle of a sound sleep.

The first time I saw my daughter having irregular sleeping patterns and difficulty in breathing, my natural reaction was to panic! But a little digging revealed that it is something newborns and toddlers do more than often.

So, what are the reasons for sleep apnea and Laryngomalacia, what are the symptoms, and what could be the prevention? Let’s get the answers to all these queries with the blog compiled below.

Sleep apnea in children

Sleep apnea is a common condition among children from 3-6 years of age.

During this condition, a child either stops breathing or faces difficulty breathing due to blockage in the airways. In addition, the instruction makes it difficult to breath-in sufficient oxygen, which hinders the exchange of oxygen within the lungs.

For babies, it means a disruptive sleep and not getting enough rest. But if the problem continues, the body does not get enough oxygen, leading to decreased blood supply in the bloodstream.

Lack of oxygen can cause permanent damage to the heart and lungs.

What causes sleep apnea?

An infant girl is sleeping and gasping for air, which is alarming to her parents.

My son was always restless, use to snort and take short breaths during his naps, which means no quality sleep for me as a mom.

So, why was my child so disturbed while he sleeps? This is because of enlarged tonsils or adenoids. They are lymph tissues located at the back of the nose or throat.

When a baby is dreaming in their sleep, there is a decrease in muscle tone, making it impossible for the air to pass through the nasal passage easily.

Although the breathing interruption lasts only a few seconds but will prevent the baby from having a sound sleep.

What symptoms to look for?

Other than grasping for air, children facing the problem of sleep apnea may demonstrate the following symptoms:

  • Noisy breathing.
  • The child starts breathing through his/her mouth.
  • Due to continuous arousal, the child becomes restless and keeps tossing throughout his sleep.
  • As sleeping becomes difficult the child may choose odd positions for sleeping such as sleeping with his neck arched backwards.
  • Even with the chest moving, you will notice no intake of air or oxygen for ascertain duration.  

Is laryngomalacia different than sleep apnea?

Sleep apnea and Laryngomalacia both disturb a baby while they sleep. However, the two conditions have a slight difference. Laryngomalacia is caused when vocal tissues fall on the air passageway. This causes noisy breathing among infants and children. 

Laryngomalacia either resolves on its own when the baby celebrates their first birthday or, in grave consequences, the pediatrician might recommend going for surgery.

Common symptoms include noisy breathing, feeding becoming difficult, slow weight gain, and pausing between breaths while sleeping.

Other reasons for short breaths during sleeping

Besides sleep apnea and Laryngomalacia, there could be other reasons your baby is clenching for air. As a parent, you must contemplate every option to come up with a better solution.

Some common problems making your baby grasp for air are as follow:

Upper respiratory infection:

Bronchitis or pneumonia are common illnesses among children. Due to this upper respiratory infection, the bronchial tubes become inflamed, or pneumonia can fill the lungs with liquid making it difficult for the little one to breathe. However, proper medical treatment can solve the problem in no time.

Excessive mucus: 

Excessive mucus can block the airways passage of the baby, causing a disturbance while sleeping. Increased mucus can be due to a lot of reasons such as asthma, respiratory infections, colds, and allergies.

What are the treatment options?

As children grow, their upper airway grows to allow the child to outgrow the problem on its own.

Whereas if the condition remains persistent, the child may need oxygen to support their breathing.

Each child has a different level of severity when it comes to breathing problems while sleeping. Therefore, it’s best to consult a physician to get the right solution.

Final thoughts

I faced the same problem with my little girl. She was always restless, use to make snorting sounds, and often it looks like she is about to choke.

Well, being the first-time mom, I began to worry. But a thorough examination by the physician reveals that the condition was not as grave as I thought. Instead, he recommended that her condition will normalize as she grows up.

Was this article helpful?

Hello, I am Ramsha. A mother of two naughty boys. One is 2.5 years old while the other is 1.5 years old so you can understand the tips and tricks I may have learned and am still learning while upbringing them. It is a wonderful yet difficult phase of life. But every moment is worth cherishing!

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