Pediatric Sleep Breathing Above 8,000' Elevation


Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is prevalent among children and is associated with adverse health outcomes. Worldwide, approximately 250 million individuals reside at altitudes higher than 2000 meters above sea level (masl). The effect of chronic high-altitude exposure on children with SDB is unknown. This study aims to determine the impact of altitude on sleep study outcomes in children with SDB dwelling at high altitude.


A single-center crossover study was performed to compare results of high-altitude home polysomnography (H-PSG) with lower altitude laboratory polysomnography (L-PSG) in school-age children dwelling at high altitude with symptoms consistent with SDB. The primary outcome was apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), with secondary outcomes including obstructive AHI; central AHI; and measures of oxygenation, sleep quality, and pulse rate.


Twelve participants were enrolled, with 10 included in the final analysis. Median altitude was 1644 masl on L-PSG and 2531 masl on H-PSG. Median AHI was 2.40 on L-PSG and 10.95 on H-PSG. Both obstructive and central respiratory events accounted for the difference in AHI. Oxygenation and sleep fragmentation were worse and pulse rate higher on H-PSG compared to L-PSG.


These findings reveal a clinically substantial impact of altitude on respiratory, sleep, and cardiovascular outcomes in children with SDB who dwell at high altitude. Within this population, L-PSG underestimates obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea compared to H-PSG. Given the shortage of high-altitude pediatric sleep laboratories, these results suggest a role for home sleep apnea testing for children residing at high altitude.

© Sleep Research Society 2017. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Sleep Research Society. All rights reserved. For permissions, please e-mail


OSA pathogenesis; Sleep-disordered breathing; altitude; cardiovascular; central sleep apnea; environment; home sleep apnea testing; obstructive sleep apnea; pediatric sleep apnea; pediatrics