01/27/2012 12:30 pm ET Updated Jan 27, 2012

5 Tips For Battling Infant Sleep Apnea

Infant sleep apnea is an uncommon sleep disorder. We spoke to Craig Schwimmer, M.D., MPH, medical director of The Snoring Center, for one approach to the medical problems you or your loved one may suffer from when trying to sleep.

If you think your infant might have infant sleep apnea, use this as a reference point before getting personalized medical advice from your doctor or other accredited sleep expert. --Wendy Gould

Infant sleep apnea -- or apnea of infancy -- is described as abnormal episodes when an infant stops breathing. Because brief pauses in breathing are common and not harmful in infants, apnea of infancy refers to lapses that last 20 seconds or longer. Such spells are abnormal and can be life-threatening.

Look Beyond Snoring

"Unlike in adults," says Dr. Schwimmer, "the stop-breathing episodes experienced in apnea of infancy are not often associated with snoring." Instead of suffering from throat obstruction, the baby is most often not actively trying to breathe. "Because premature infants do not have fully developed central nervous systems," he explains, "their breathing control can be inadequate, leading to repeated pauses in breathing."

Observe Your Baby's Breathing

According to Dr. Schwimmer, your pediatrician should evaluate your baby if you notice "stop-breathing episodes that last longer than 20 seconds, changes in skin tone (duskiness) or decreased responsiveness."

Watch For Early Symptoms

"Sleep apnea in infants is much more common among premature infants, particularly among infants who weigh less than 2.2 pounds at birth," explains Dr. Schwimmer. "Because these infants lack fully developed regulatory systems, their breathing is usually continuously monitored until they outgrow the problem."

Learn Pediatric CPR

"All parents benefit from learning pediatric CPR, and many hospitals offer free classes to expecting parents," Dr. Schwimmer says. "Knowing pediatric CPR is especially important if your child was born prematurely or experiences breathing issues."

Use A Monitor

"If apnea of infancy is suspected or diagnosed, ask your pediatrician to recommend a monitor until your infant outgrows the problem," Dr. Schwimmer suggests. He also recommends having your infant sleep in your room.

Craig Schwimmer, Md., MPH, is a board-certified ENT who specializes in treating sleep disorders. He serves as the medical director of The Snoring Center, is president of the American Snoring Association and is recognized as a top doctor in the field of sleep disorders. In the past, Dr. Schwimmer has appeared on popular television shows like "Dr. Phil" and "The Doctors."

Have you ever suffered from a sleep disorder? What worked for you?