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Poor Sleep in Children

Night-Time Waking in Children – Two Causes Directly Related to Dentistry

Sleep is paramount for children. It aids in growth of not only the body, but of the brain. However, about 69 percent of children 10 and under experience some type of sleep problem, according to the National Sleep Foundation’s (NSF) 2004 Sleep in America poll. Here, we take a closer look at night-time waking and two causes that are related to dentistry.

Headaches. A recent Polish study of 284 kindergarten and school-aged children reports that kids who suffered from headaches were more likely to suffer from frequent night wakings (Zarowski et al 2007). Similar results have been reported for kids in the United States (Long et al 2010) and Italy (Carotenuto et al 2005). It’s not clear if the headaches are causing the sleep problems, or the sleep problems are causing the headaches. Either way, it’s a good idea to have your child’s headaches investigated by a physician.

Snoring and other forms of sleep-disordered breathing. Sleep disordered breathing (SDB) includes snoring, loud breathing, troubled breathing and interrupted breathing (apnea) during sleep. SDB can restrict the oxygen supply to a child’s brain and cause serious health problems. It is also associated with poor sleep quality, nighttime crying, daytime sleepiness, attention problems, hyperactivity, and frequent night wakings (e.g., Fukumizu et al 2005; Hiscock et al 2007; Shur-Fen Gau 2006).

Common symptoms include a child who finds it difficult to wake up in the morning, or feels tired easily within a few hours after waking, or complaints of difficulty falling asleep, or complaints of headaches or even show venous pooling (large dark eye bags) below the eyes.

The problem can lie anywhere along the airway system: the nose, the tonsils, or the airway.

A blocked nose makes it difficult for children to breathe through their nose – forcing them to take shallower breathers through their mouth. This can be acute i.e. common cold or flu, or chronic in which the child is constantly mouth-breathing. A dentist might look for signs in the mouth that points to chronic mouth-breathing e.g. dry mouth, small arch with crowded teeth, high palate, toothwear.

Enlarged tonsils can also restrict the opening of the airway. Tonsils, or adenoids, play a role in protecting the body from respiratory or gastrointestinal infections. However, their location above the throat means that when it is enlarged (either naturally, or in the case of an infection), it will restrict the size of the airway. This can give rise to difficulty in breathing.

The airway itself might give rise to snoring or other forms of sleep-disordered breathing. When lying down flat on the bed, gravity acts on the airway, causing the airway to collapse a little more than when standing upright. The tongue will also fall back during sleep, restricting the opening of the airway. Imagine a child with a narrow arch and crowded teeth – the tongue now has to fall back even more to fit comfortably in the mouth.

Fortunately, the intervention of the dentist may be able to correct a few of these abnormalities. The dentist will usually work in close association with physicians, naturopaths and radiologists in identifying the problem and finding suitable means to solve it.

If you think your child has problems sleeping, or if you know someone who does (it does not have to be a child even!), we, at Image Dental, are ready to help! Drop us a line or call 08-93643996 for more information.

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