Brief airway obstructions during sleep in infants with breath-holding spells

J Pediatr. 1990 Aug;117(2 Pt 1):188-93. doi: 10.1016/s0022-3476(05)80528-1.

Abstract

We investigated the possibility that infants with breath-holding spells have breathing disorders during sleep. Seventy-one breath holders with a median age of 14 weeks were selected from a well babies clinic because of their histories: 34 infants without loss of consciousness, and 37 with loss of consciousness (21 of the latter had had cyanotic spells, 14 pallid spells, and 2 combined cyanotic and pallid spells). For each breath holder, one control infant without a history of breath holding was chosen from the same clinic. All infants were healthy and had no known cause of disrupted breathing during sleep. Their histories indicated that the breath holders were covered with sweat during sleep (p = 0.005) or wakefulness (p = 0.006) significantly more often than were the control infants. The infants were studied during a one-night monitoring session, and the 142 sleep recordings were analyzed without knowledge of the history. The breath holders had significantly less nonrapid eye movement (stage III) sleep, more indeterminate sleep, more arousals, and more sleep-stage changes than the control infants had. Central apneas were evenly distributed in the two groups. Airway obstructions were found in 41 breath holders and six control infants; the obstruction lasted longer in the breath holders. The infants with airway obstruction during sleep snored more often (p = 0.023) and sweated more (p = 0.035) during sleep. The water evaporation rate, measured on the forehead with an evaporation meter, was significantly greater in the breath holders (p = 0.001). Ocular compression induced longer asystoles in the infants with pallid syncopes than in either those with cyanotic syncopes (p = 0.036) or those without loss of consciousness (p = 0.031). We conclude that the obstructed breathing during both wakefulness and sleep could be related to a common immature breathing control.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods
  • Respiration Disorders / physiopathology*
  • Respiratory Center / physiopathology
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / diagnosis*
  • Sleep Apnea Syndromes / etiology
  • Sleep, REM / physiology
  • Syncope / etiology
  • Wakefulness / physiology