Baby Oxygen Levels Drop When Sleeping: How Dangerous Can It Be?

How terrifying it can be for a mom to find out that her baby’s oxygen level drops when sleeping. I can imagine how frantic one can get to see that happening. Unfortunately, this condition occurs in newborns especially to those who are born prematurely.

Oxygen level for infants is monitored and evaluated right after birth. Measurement of oxygen saturation is vital to know the health status of your baby’s respiratory, heart and circulatory system. Breathing irregularities could be a sign of this condition.

Find out what you need to do when this happens to your newborn.

Why do my baby’s oxygen levels stop when sleeping?

Babies who have low oxygen levels in their blood may experience unstable breathing disorders. In this condition, the rhythm of breathing is erratic and sometimes pauses. When your baby’s oxygen levels suddenly drop when sleeping, oxygen deficiency may be one of the cause.

Normal Oxygen Saturation for Infants

As soon as the baby oxygen levels drop when sleeping, the monitoring device may show a sudden decrease in the usual reading. The machine used to read oxygen saturation level is called pulse oximeter. It has an infrared light source to detect oxygen saturation without getting blood samples.

This is good news to us moms whose heart breaks every time our baby gets pricked with those mean needles. The reading shows the amount of hemoglobin in the blood that’s saturated with oxygen.

Pulse Oximeter Blood Oxygen Saturation Monitor

Via Amazon

Full-term infants: 95-100% is the normal oxygen saturation level for healthy babies. Having cases of low oxygen saturation is rare.

Premature Infants:84-90% is the average oxygen saturation level for these preterm babies. If newborns can’t sustain a stable level, they might need oxygen support.

Oxygen Saturation levels fluctuate especially during sleeping. Other times, when the baby oxygen levels drop when sleeping, it could only be the pulse oximeter being detached and lost contact with your baby’s skin while moving or rolling over. And when this happens, an alarm comes off to alert you.

During this critical period, the medical team continue to observe the condition and may regulate the flow rate of the oxygen from time to time to keep it to its normal level. Monitoring is of importance for immediate detection of any complications.

If you don’t have a measuring device, watch out for physical signs of low oxygen levels for babies such as these:

  • Breathing and heart rate dramatically increases.
  • checkThe color of the skin turns blue around the mouth, lips, and fingertips. The face and skin all over will appear pale.
  • checkBaby grunts each attempt to exhale.
  • checkChest retractions
  • checkSweating but skin feels cold to the touch.
  • checkWheezing and nose flaring at each breath.
  • checkBody position: The baby will try her best to breathe and thrusts her head backwards to grasp for air.
  • checkStridor: A sharp wheezing sounds caused by a blocked airway.

Infant Sleep Apnea and Hypoxemia

Breathing abnormalities that transpire during sleeping manifest a very slow rate or partial declining to momentary stopping. The full stop of breathing is called apnea. When an infant stops breathing (central apnea), this could complicate to heart and brain problems. This may get worse when the airways are congested while sleeping (obstructive apnea).

Sleep apnea may be a result of the development problems of the baby or some other medical causes.

Infants who experience apnea are vulnerable to severe complications. This happens when baby oxygen levels drop when sleeping and there might not be enough oxygen in the blood. This condition is known as hypoxemia.

During a state of hypoxemia, the baby’s heartbeat may slow down. The baby would need oxygen therapy by using masks or tubes in the nose that is attached to a ventilator. In extreme cases, medical experts may perform resuscitation to your newborn.

Do you want to see a child having sleep apnea? Here is a video to show you.


Most of the time, I tend to overreact when it’s about my baby. I guess, most moms are like that. However, when baby oxygen levels drop when sleeping, it caused unstable breathing to babies. It’s common and normal to an infant’s developing stage.

Brief apneas can occur to healthy babies just when they are active. Short pauses are not a risk. Nevertheless, when it happens in shorter intervals and longer pauses, make sure to call for help. When we undergo oxygen deprivation for a long time, it may cause dangerous complications.

Remember to monitor your baby’s oxygen levels especially in the early stages after birth. Learn how to be proactive. If that means asking me a question or two about this, write a comment and let’s have a chat.

Other Related Articles:

  1. Baby Stopped Rolling Over: What Shall I Do?
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Sarah Palmer
Hi! I'm Sarah. My husband and I have a beautiful little girl; plus we’re anxiously awaiting the arrival of Baby #2, so this is a very exciting time for us. Throughout this amazing journey called Parenthood, I’ve learned so much and love sharing my experiences with other parents at I'd love to share my discoveries with you too!
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One comment

  1. My baby, 10 mo, has regularly been sleeping through the night. No complaints there, but it has been regularly for 12 hour stretches. Plus he gives me signs during the day that he wants a nap about every 2 hours. Would low oxygen be a cause of him wanting to sleep 24/7?

    I know babies require quite a bit of sleep, I know growth spurts could make him want extra naps, but this has been the pattern for a month now. Seems a bit much if it was just simply a growth spurt.

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