What if I told you that most adults who suffer from sleep apnea most likely suffered from a sleep disorder as children?
While most people are aware of the debilitating health consequences of sleep apnea, there is much less attention given to an extremely common (but never normal) condition called sleep disordered breathing.
Sleep disordered breathing is a set of abnormal sleep behaviors that stems from one or more root causes: oral habits like thumb sucking or pacifier use, mouth breathing, improper tongue position, or a high and narrow roof of the mouth. You can read more about sleep disordered breathing in this blog post.
It is estimated that nine out of ten children suffer from at least one symptom of sleep disordered breathing… yikes.
If the prevalence of SDB is that high, it’s worth educating yourself to be able to recognize the red flags of this debilitating disorder.
Symptom #1: Snoring
Snoring is never, ever normal. It’s a sure-fire sign that your child isn’t getting enough oxygen while they’re sleeping.
Symptom #2: Teeth grinding
While many well-meaning providers will assure you that children “grow out of” grinding their teeth, the opposite couldn’t be more true. Nighttime grinding is a fight-or-flight response to decreased oxygen levels in the body.
Symptom #3: Bed-wetting
Much like teeth grinding and clenching, bed-wetting is a fight-or-flight alarm going off by the body in an attempt to wake up and BREATHE.
Symptom #4: Daytime behavioral problems
While temper tantrums and moodiness can be multifactorial, in many instances behavioral problems can be traced back to poor sleep quality due to decreased oxygen from mouth breathing or snoring at night.
Symptom #5: Chronic throat and ear infections. Mouth breathing is irritating to the tonsils and adenoids, and will cause them to become enlarged and inflamed. Ear infections arise when a child is chronically battling nasal congestion and the mucous has nowhere to escape.
Symptom #6: Nightmares and night terrors
Again, the body is trying to tell the child to WAKE UP AND BREATHE! Bad dreams are a fight-or-flight response to diminished oxygen levels.
Symptom #7: Poor ability to focus
Think about the last time you had a horrible night’s sleep. Did you do your best work the morning after? Or were you too tired to get anything accomplished? Children with sleep disordered breathing may look like they’re slacking off in school, but they’re actually too tired to focus.
Does your child exhibit any of these symptoms? I believe we owe it to every child to screen for the debilitating signs and symptoms of sleep disordered breathing. We could be saving our children from a lifetime of chronic illnesses and health struggles. Take your child to the dentist early- don’t wait until the preschool years! There’s so much more to oral health that goes beyond the teeth.