Apnea (AP - nee - ah) means the abnormal cessation of respiration. In pediatric usage it is most often describes such activity in young infants, although obviously patients of any age can exhibit apnea; for example, a grand mal seizure may be associated with apnea for a few seconds.

Babies with apnea - most often premature infants - may or may not exhibit bradycardia, which refers to slowing of the heart. In general, apnea without bradycardia is much less significant than apnea with slowing of the heart. Apnea of prematurity is safely and effectively treated with oral caffeine, which interestingly enough does not interfere with their sleep.

Brief periods of apnea are normal during the sleep of newborns. Very young infants exhibit more irregular, "periodic" respiration than older children, and may stop breathing for a few seconds. Babies suspected of being at risk for more serious apnea, that is to say SIDS, are placed on an apnea monitor, which senses respirations as well as heart rate and gives a loud alarm sound if heart rate or breathing rate limits are violated.

See also sleep apnea, the condition of apnea caused by physical obstruction of the upper airway in older children and adults.

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