Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What Is Obstructive Sleep Apnea?

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a condition in which a person’s airway is partially or completely blocked during sleep, which leads to snoring as well as a reduced oxygen saturation in the blood. It is the most common type of sleep apnea.

Symptoms of Obstructive Sleep Apnea in Children

Parents don’t often think of their child as having sleep apnea, but it can be quite common in children with the following diagnoses and/or symptoms:

What Your Doctor May Tell You About Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Your child’s pediatrician may tell you that the cause of OSA is either unknown or could be due to enlarged tonsils, being overweight or having blocked sinuses due to allergies and/or sinus infections. He or she will likely recommend a sleep test (polysomnography) to rule out or to diagnose the disorder.

If the sleep test shows that your child does have sleep apnea and if your doctor determines that enlarged tonsils could be responsible, he or she would likely recommend that your child’s tonsils be removed. Your child’s doctor may also prescribe medications that relieve symptoms of acid reflux, allergies and/or sinus infections.

If OSA remains unresolved, your child may need to use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine during sleep.

Another Way of Thinking About Obstructive Sleep Apnea

Many children with OSA have narrow sinus passages that contribute to a lack of a proper amount of oxygen going to the brain. These narrow sinus passages may initially be caused by a tongue tie, which, according to researcher Ben Lynch ND, is often caused by a mutation of the MTHFR gene.

This mutation means that the body is unable to excrete toxins and pathogens efficiently, which may affect how other genes and development are expressed.

A tongue tie keeps the tongue from fully extending to the upper palate of the mouth.

Lack of stimulation of the upper palate by the tongue can lead to an overarched, high palate and a lack of full development of the jaw, resulting in narrow sinus passages. By correcting the jaw’s development with an oral appliance such as a palate expander, many other issues may be resolved, including obstructive sleep apnea as well as ADD/ADHD.

However, if OSA remains unresolved, your child may need to use a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine during sleep.

Checklist for Obstructive Sleep Apnea

See a myofunctional dentist or orthodontist:

Myofunctional orthodontics and dentists will likely perform an initial assessment to see if your child has tongue tie, a highly arched palate and a small, crowded jaw. These doctors will typically advise a frenectomy to remove a tongue tie and then implement a palate expander such as an ALF device.

They may also recommend that your child work with a “tongue tutor” (also known as an orofacial myofunctional therapist) as well as work with an osteopath and a craniosacral therapist. Following these steps may be able to remediate your child’s OSA as well as comorbid conditions and symptoms.

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Sources & References

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Urbano, G.L., et al. The Link between Pediatric Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Children (Basel). 2021 Sep 19;8(9):824.

White, David P., et al. Mandibular Advancement Device vs. CPAP in the Treatment of Obstructive Sleep Apnea: Are They Equally Effective in Short Term Health Outcomes? J Clin Sleep Med. 2013 Sep 15;9(9):971-2.

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