Sleep-Disordered Breathing & Your Child: What You Need To Watch For - JUST BREATHE DDS

Getting a restful night of sleep is very important for everyone, especially children. Unfortunately, many children are not getting the proper amount or quality of sleep they need for optimal growth. Most parents may not even be aware their child is breathing improperly during the day or while they sleep, also known as sleep-disordered breathing.

Getting enough air while asleep and during the day is essential for your child’s health. The amount of sleep your child is getting every night is important, but equally important is getting quality sleep. Sleep helps physical growth, mental development and also restores one’s energy. On the other hand, when someone doesn’t get enough sleep it can have negative health consequences such as poor brain development, behavioral issues and high blood pressure. It’s important to pay attention to how your child is breathing while sleeping and while they are awake.

Breathing Habits Parents Should Watch For

One of the most obvious signs to watch out for while a child is sleeping is mouth breathing. Your child should be breathing through their nose and it should be silent. Additional things to watch out for are breathing sounds, including snoring or gasping. Signs your child may be experiencing sleep-disordered breathing include:

  • Bed-wetting
  • Teeth grinding
  • Sweating
  • Unusual sleep position
  • Waking up Frequently

Your child may also be exhibiting behavioral signs during the day.  In many cases, children who are diagnosed with having attention deficit hyperactivity disorder or ADHD may be sleeping poorly. The behavioral signs for ADHD and sleep disordered breathing are similar:

  • Daytime Drowsiness
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Trouble Concentrating
  • Hyperactivity or fidgeting

Your Child’s Dentist Can Help Identify Sleep-Disordered Breathing

Your child’s dentist may be able to help identify any signs of disordered breathing during a dental exam. Some common signs of disordered breathing include mouth breathing, tongue positioning, and the shape of the face and mouth. When problems with the jaw and airway are detected early, it means treatment can start before any health issues emerge.

If your dentist suspects your child has a sleep disordered breathing they can help you treat the source of the problems. Some of these issues may include allergies, poor habits, sleep hygiene issues, etc. There are a vast array of treatment options for improving your child’s health when it comes to breathing. Some of these include taking care of allergies, wearing a myofunctional trainer (similar to a night guard) or using habit correcting exercises to encourage nasal breathing. Your child’s dentist and pediatrician can help you determine what is best for your child.

The Way Your Child’s Breathes is Important

Nasal breathing is when you breathe through your nose. It should be encouraged over mouth breathing, especially while sleeping. Nasal breathing is so important because it allows more oxygen into the lungs and the nose filters any particles from getting into the lungs. With the exception of being sick, every breath should be through the nose.

Mouth breathing on the other hand allows cold, dry, unfiltered air to get into the lungs. An open mouth can lead to problems with how the upper and lower jaw aligns, poor swallowing habits and crowded teeth. In some cases, mouth breathing can also lead to tooth decay and gum disease caused by a dry mouth. You can help your child by reminding them to breathe through their nose during the day. If you notice your child has a hard time keeping their lips closed while sleeping, there may be something restricting air flow through the nose such as enlarged adenoids or tonsils. 

Rely on a Dentist That Specializes in Sleep-Disordered Breathing

It’s important to pay attention to how your child is breathing while sleeping and while they are awake. If you suspect your child may suffer from poor breathing habits or sleep-disordered breathing, seek help from your child’s pediatrician or talk with their dentist. A dentist that specializes in sleep breathing disorders may be the best choice. For more information, call Just Breathe DDS at (208) 500-3030 to speak with a sleep specialist today. We can help you or your child breathe better, sleep better and live better! 



Children’s Airways, Why Parents Should Pay Attention To Their Child’s Breathing. American Dental Association, Produced in collaboration with Dr. Steve Carstensen and Glennine Varga.