Sleep Disordered Breathing
Sleep disordered breathing also known, as sleep apnea is a very serious disorder in which you stop breathing while you sleep. Not only is it very serious, but it is also very common with an estimated 30 million adults in the US having obstructive sleep apnea. It is also estimated that worldwide approximately1 billion people are suffering from it.
There are two types of sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea, and central sleep apnea. We are going to focus on obstructive sleep apnea. Obstructive sleep apnea is when the muscles in the back of your throat relax too much to allow normal breathing. This type of sleep apnea can occur at all ages but tends to increase with age and obesity. Pediatric obstructive sleep apnea is usually caused by enlarged tonsils or adenoids but can also be due to the relationship of the jaw.
There are some symptoms to look out for in both children and adults. Loud snoring, gasping for air during sleep, episodes of no breathing, breathing through the mouth, loud breathing, or shortness of breath. All of these nighttime symptoms lead to your sleep cycle being disturbed and your overall quality of sleep being disturbed. Symptoms in adults can look like daytime sleepiness, dry mouth or sore throat when waking up, intellectual impairments, high blood pressure, heart disease, sexual dysfunction, night sweats and headaches. Symptoms in children are often mistaken for something else like behavioral disorders, but unfortunately sleep disordered breathing in children can lead to behavioral disorders. Symptoms in children include poor school performance, sluggishness or sleepiness, daytime mouth breathing, unusual sleeping positions, night sweats, learning and behavioral disorders, and bedwetting.
Treatment for sleep-disordered breathing includes lifestyle changes such as weight loss, positional therapy, breathing assistance with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine, and/or potentially surgery to remove tonsils and adenoids. Positional therapy can sometimes be achieved with a dental device similar to a mouth guard called a mandibular advancement device. This device essentially sits over your top and bottom teeth and has springs attached to it so you can move the lower jaw forward which helps to keep the tongue from blocking the airway. These are generally only used for mild to moderate sleep apnea cases but on occasion will be used for more severe cases if the patient cannot tolerate a CPAP machine. Treatment for children is similar to adults with surgery to remove tonsils and adenoids usually being the first option. There are appliances such as palatal expanders and myofunctional splints that can be made as well to help change the relationship of the jaw and open the airway.
Sleep-disordered breathing is a serious disorder that needs to be addressed. If you think yourself, your child, or your spouse may be suffering from sleep-disordered breathing it is important to talk to your primary physician about it.