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  • Writer's pictureChristi Boujikian

AIRWAY, SLEEP AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT: THE MISSING PART OF GENTLE PARENTING

Terrible Twos, Threenagers, Fearsome Fours and Fives...when does it end?


The gentle parenting movement is awesome. As more is discovered about the brain and how it develops during childhood, this shift towards attachment-based, nurturing methods to meet kids where they are and form secure attachments sets the foundation for emotional and relational health throughout their lifespan.  


AIRWAY HEALTH AND BRAIN DEVELOPMENT

However, one thing we do not like about the movement is that none of the experts with influence whether they may be therapists, psychologists, neuroscientists, etc. that promote these methods are talking about some of the biggest factors that affect your child’s behavior: airway development and sleep quality. When the focus is only on strategies for parents, it can normalize extreme emotions that come from getting a lack of quality sleep.


Don’t get us wrong, we are not by any means suggesting kids are going to have zero tantrums, meltdowns, or bad days. We know this is developmentally normal; however, how do we know when it crosses from developmentally appropriate to a cause for concern?


AIRWAY AND SLEEP MANAGEMENT TO PROMOTE PROPER BRAIN DEVELOPMENT


Routine checkups at your local airway dentist are one way to ensure your child’s craniofacial and airway development are on (and staying on) the appropriate trajectory.



Airway health and development have a direct impact on sleep quality. We know that over 90% of kids today are suffering from jaw growth deficiencies so it would not be a big leap to assume that many are not getting quality sleep. Even the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates that sleep problems affect 25% to 50% of children and 40 percent of adolescents.


While some might think it's cute, snoring is a sign of a potential airway issue and should be reported to your airway dentist or pediatrician. Snoring can cause structural changes in a child's brain, which can cause a range of behavioral and health issues. According to a study by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, these changes can include a lack of focus, hyperactivity, ADHD, learning difficulties, and a lower IQ of up to 10 points.


A child dealing with a sleep deficiency will typically display one or more of the following symptoms:


  • Moodiness and irritability

  • Temper tantrums in younger children or unreasonable outbursts in older children

  • The tendency to emotionally 'explode' at the slightest provocation

  • Over-activity and hyperactive behavior

  • Daytime naps are required daily

  • Grogginess when they wake up in the morning

  • Reluctance to get out of bed in the morning

  • Sleepwalking and sleeptalking

  • Higher levels of anxiety or stress

  • Chronically waking up with a headache and/or dry mouth

  • Mouth breathing throughout the day


HOW TO ACHIEVE PROPER SLEEP QUALITY IN CHILDREN


Let’s get curious about our children’s sleep quality! Many parents believe that their children are getting a good quantity but have never assessed the quality of their child's sleep.


As Dr. David McIntosh suggested in episodes 13 and 14 of the Airway First podcast, parents need to take some time to observe their child's sleep on various occasions to obtain a good assessment of the quality they are getting. A good strategy is to check in on them at different times over several days for 10-15 minutes each time.



What we want to see when you observe your child sleeping:

  • Lips sealed

  • The tongue suctioned to the palate (if you are brave enough to slightly open the mouth, you can check for this important piece)

  • A still and peaceful child

  • Quiet, nasal breathing


We don’t want to see when you observe your child sleeping:

  • Lips apart

  • The tongue at the bottom of the mouth

  • Tossing and turning, thrashing, or sheets twisted up

  • Any audible breathing

 

AIRWAY AND SLEEP: THE FOUNDATION FOR LIFELONG HEALTH


Ensuring your child's sleep consistently is both ample quantity and good quality will be a foundation for their lifelong health!


For sleep to be truly restorative and support a child's brain and body the way they need, they must be able to adequately go through all the sleep stages, including deep and REM sleep. When mouth breathing and snoring are present, your child can’t get the quality of sleep that their brain development and foundational health depend on.

 

Let us know – who are your favorite gentle parenting experts with influence? Help us raise awareness around the global epidemic of children’s airway issues!


Does your child have OSA?

SPOTLIGHT BOOK RESOURCE FOR PARENTS


https://www.amazon.com/Sleep-Wrecked-Kids-Helping-Parents/dp/1642793965/ref=sr_1_1?hvadid=291289357321&hvdev=c&hvlocphy=9016829&hvnetw=g&hvqmt=e&hvrand=17206403478085570993&hvtargid=kwd-515797719586&hydadcr=24657_9648987&keywords=sleep+wrecked+kids&qid=1703613054&sr=8-1

Kids often suffer unknowingly from the consequences of sleep problems because their issue is frequently missed or dismissed, by both health professionals and parents.


Sleep disorders are a major public health issue that can kick-start a lifetime pattern of health, behavior, and learning problems. Sleep Wrecked Kids guides parents towards good sleep as the norm, allowing themselves and their children to grow and thrive.


Speech pathologist and myofunctional practitioner Sharon Moore teaches parents why ‘bad sleep’ is connected to a myriad of health problems, what ‘good sleep’ actually means, how to identify red flags for sleep problems, how to improve sleep quality by improving airway health, and so much more! Parents are empowered to not only get more sleep themselves but also to help their children get the sleep they need―every night.

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