Some Toddlers May Breathe Easier On Side, Tummy

Lying on back problematic for youngsters with sleep apnea, study found

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TUESDAY, Nov. 22, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Toddlers who have obstructed nighttime breathing, or sleep apnea, appear to experience more respiratory troubles when they sleep on their backs compared to when they sleep in other positions, a new study finds.

The findings, which contradict earlier research, appear in the November issue of the journal Archives of Otolaryngology - Head & Neck Surgery.

Researchers studied the association between obstructive sleep apnea syndrome and body position by observing 60 toddlers while they slept. They analyzed data about the time spent in each body position during sleep, the number of apnea events in each position, oxygen saturation, time spent in each stage of sleep, and the "respiratory disturbance index (RDI)."

"The mean RDI rose when more than 50 percent of the time was spent in supine (face upwards) sleep," study lead author Dr. Kevin D. Pereira, a professor of otolaryngology at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, said in a prepared statement. "There was even more of an increase when supine sleep comprised 75 percent of the total sleep time. In fact, the RDI in this position was greater than in all other positions combined."

"This finding is in contrast to previous studies that have demonstrated no correlation between sleep position and obstructive sleep apnea in children," Pereira said.

He noted that this study did not look at infants, so the findings shouldn't be confused with the healthy practice of having infants sleep on their sides or backs to help avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and apnea.

SOURCE: University of Texas Medical School at Houston, news release, Nov. 21, 2005

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