Stability of oxygen saturation depends on maturation and function of individual components of the respiratory system. The aim of this study was to record and analyse comprehensive oxygen saturation data in a longitudinal study over the first year of life. Detailed sleep studies were performed on 15 normal infants eight times in the first year of life. The accrued oxygen saturation data were analysed on a computerized oximetry data analysis system. Results show the mean sleep saturation levels trending upwards and stabilizing by 185 days. There was an inverse curvilinear relationship between mean age and median desaturation time and the median number of desaturations at < or = 95, < or = 92 and < or = 90% saturation. The mean cumulative desaturation time < or = 90% in the first 4 months was 11.08 min (range 2.5-36.57 min). This study demonstrates monotonic patterns of increasing saturation and decreasing number and time of desaturations < or = 95% and < or = 90% but a random pattern of desaturations < or = 85% occurs across the first 6 months of life. Cumulative desaturation times over the first 4 months of life were high and could be important to the development of maturity of the respiratory system. After 6 months, all indices of saturation and desaturation point to a stable and mature respiratory system.