There are so many things to think about when raising a child. Science tells us that the way children turn out has a lot to do with you, their parent! Along with all the joyous, funny, and adorable moments, there are also moments of doubt and concern. One thing that many parents don’t think about is sleep-disordered breathing and pediatric sleep apnea. Generally, we think of sleep apnea as an overweight adult male condition. But that can’t be further from the truth. Children, regardless of gender and weight, can have sleep-disordered breathing.
Sleep-disordered breathing is an overarching term for many different steps along the continuum leading to childhood sleep apnea. Your child could have light snoring that you overlook affecting them, or they might start to show signs of fragmented sleep from pauses in breathing throughout the night. The conditions that lie under the ‘sleep-disordered breathing umbrella’ can severely impact your child’s development (physically, mentally, and emotionally) and their health now and in the future.
Growth guidance using myofunctional therapy techniques can help your child avoid and cure sleep-disordered breathing.
Two Types of Sleep Disordered Breathing
Another common misconception about sleep-disordered breathing and pediatric sleep apnea is that it’s all to do with your throat. Yet, most of us breathe through our noses throughout the day and night. If a blockage occurs in your child’s nose, they’ll still experience fragmented breathing and sleep. The good thing about nasal blockages is that they are easy for parents to spot.
Throat sleep-disordered breathing occurs because there is a blockage. But why? And what? Those questions are less easily answered, but usually, the problem has to do with a recessed chin. The tongue connects to the bottom of the airway. If the chin is positioned too far back, the tongue takes up the space air is supposed to flow through.
One reason this happens is too much baby food between the ages of 0 and 5. The tongue and jaw need exercise to grow to healthy proportions. Feeding your child baby food for too long makes the job of chewing and swallowing almost non-existent for your child. Chewing and swallowing real food gives your child’s tongue and jaw the resistance they need to grow and develop healthily.
Likewise, Nasal sleep-disordered breathing is a blockage in your child’s nasal passages. Something like this can start simply as a habit of mouth breathing. You probably haven’t thought about it, but your tongue puts outward pressure on your palate (roof of your mouth) as it sits on the roof of your mouth while the cheeks and jaw apply inward pressure. These pressures help your child’s paleate form correctly. When your child is mouth breathing, nothing stops the inward pressure from their cheeks and jaw.
The result is their palate bends upward and makes their nasal passages smaller. Bottles and pacifiers exacerbate this problem because as they suck, it puts more pressure on their palate, closing off the nasal passages even more.
Narrow nasal passages require your child to continue breathing through their mouth, which parents readily notice. Of course, a stuffy nose doesn’t mean sleep-disordered breathing. But if your child is always mouth breathing, there is a chance of obstruction in their nasal passages.
What is Myofunctional Therapy?
Myofunctional therapy is a series of growth guidance exercises and the possible use of an orthotic. These exercises promote the healthy development of your child’s airway and reverse unhealthy development. It’s completely non-invasive and helps your child’s body develop correctly. It works in two ways:
- The exercises that our affiliate doctors teach you and your child, performed daily, help develop healthy habits and stimulate growth.
- Depending on your child’s management goals, ASAP Pathway doctors may prescribe a custom orthotic. The orthotic places gentle pressure that simulates muscles and encourages growth. They may have to wear it for only minutes a day, hours a day, or all day long. It all depends on your child.
Myofunctional therapy or growth guidance can effectively cure your child’s sleep-disordered breathing and save them from adult issues by:
- Expanding the airway
- Reshaping the jaw
- Improving facial appearance
- Straightening teeth
- Improving jaw function
- Reducing tension in jaw muscles
Is Your Child Exhibiting Signs of Sleep-Disordered Breathing?
Watch for signs of sleep-disordered breathing in your child and take them seriously. When they’re sleeping, watch for these telltale signs:
- Choking or gasping noises during sleep
- Mouth breathing
- Restless sleep
- Stoppages in breathing
- Wetting the bed or frequently getting up to use the bathroom
- Nighttime sweating
- Sleep terrors
When your child is awake, look for these symptoms:
- Daytime sleepiness
- Low energy
- Difficulty focusing
- Poor memory or learning difficulties
- Behavioral problems, including aggression
- “Hyperactivity”—children might be diagnosed with ADD/ADHD
- Depression or low mood
- Slow growth
ASAP Pathway Affiliate Doctors Can Help
ASAP Pathway doctors are dentists dedicated to managing children with sleep-disordered breathing and sleep apnea. If anyone can help your child get a good night’s sleep and avoid future problems—it’s ASAP Pathway dentists. If you are worried about your child’s breathing, check out our provider map and find a dentist near you today.