Breathing that slows down or stops from any cause is called apnea. Prolonged apnea means a person has stopped breathing. If the heart is still active, the condition is known as respiratory arrest. This is a life-threatening event that requires immediate medical attention and first aid.
Common causes of apnea in infants and young children include:
- Gastroesophageal reflux (heartburn)
- Holding ones breath
- Premature birth
- Allergic reaction that causes tongue, throat, or other airway swelling
- Asthma or other lung diseases
- Cardiac arrest
- Drug overdose, especially due to alcohol, narcotic painkillers, barbiturates, anesthetics, and other depressants
- Fluid in the lungs
- Obstructive sleep apnea
The most common sleep studies include:
- nocturnal polysomnography, a test that measures electronic brain waves, breathing rate, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, and various other bodily conditions during sleep
- oximetry, a way of measuring the oxygen in your blood
- portable cardiorespiratory testing, which involves testing your breathing and pulse throughout the night away from a hospital setting
- Certain medications can induce apnea. Sometimes changing these medications can help you improve.
- using a ventilator device to regulate your breathing patterns, called adaptive servo-ventilation
- having surgery to remove obstructions from the airways
- using a mouthpiece to keep the airways open
- administering caffeine intravenously in-hospital for apnea of prematurity
People with obstructive sleep apnea may also complain of memory problems, morning headaches, mood swings or depression, and a need to urinate frequently at night. Obstructive sleep apnea might be a risk factor for COVID-19. People with obstructive sleep apnea have been found to be at higher risk for developing a severe form of COVID-19 and needing hospital treatment than those who don’t have obstructive sleep apnea.