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Orthodontist • Grass Valley, CA

Orthodontics Blog

How Important is Sleep to Your Child’s Health?

I know you are thinking, what does orthodontics have to do with sleep?

We hope to educate our parents and patients about overall health and how it relates to growth and development of your teeth and jaws.

There is mounting evidence that indicates that sleep has beneficial effects on learning, memory, attention, emotional regulation and academic success.  Conversely, fatigue and insufficient sleep can negatively affect academic performance and attention which are all necessary for success in school and at work.

Sleep loss impairs performance on tasks requiring abstract thinking, creativity and planning and is associated with a decrease in the efficiency of learning and memory.

Furthermore,  pediatric, clinical and other research data show that insufficient sleep cause tiredness and daytime difficulties in terms of attention, focus and behavior.  In 1991, a significant research paper published in the Journal of Pediatric Psychology, observed that such difficulties were very similar to the core symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed neuropsychological disorder in children.  A recent study done at McGill University by the Department of Psychiatry looked at 35 healthy children (20 boys, 15 girls), aged 7-11 years old, and assessed their sleep patterns over a three day period.

Without going in to the details of the study (at the end of this article you will find references if you wish to study further), they used a portable testing device to measure their sleep.  These children went to school and teachers were asked to report symptoms of inattention and hyperactivity.

The teachers did not know anything about how the child slept that night, only that they were part of this study.

The results indicated that those children with shorter sleep duration were associated with higher levels of teacher-reported ADHD-like symptoms with respect to inattention and focus. 

Many studies have shown that preadolescent and adolescent children are averaging .5-2 hours less than the recommended amount of sleep each night.  Given the negative impacted previously outlined on sleep deprivation, this has become a major health problem for our children.

Of course, providing a good environment conducive to a long and restful sleep is important.  Exposure to light or hot temperatures, noise and a high level of stimulation have all been shown to compromise the abitlity to obtain sufficient and restful sleep.

What if you do provide an excellent environment for sleep but your child is still tired and irritable all the time?  Is there another reason for his or her lack of adequate sleep?

As orthodontists, we see patients as young as 6 years old who are chronic mouthbreathers as well as teeth grinders.  These patients often come into our offices, because of concerned family dentists or the parents themselves are worried about the teeth grinding or the crowded arches.

The mouthbreathing, narrow arches, crowded teeth and grinding of the teeth can all be related to sleep apnea in these young children.  Many parents will tell us they hear their child snoring one moment and the next time they check on them they are grinding their teeth.

Like adults who have sleep apnea and snore, children have these same issues and wake up unrested, irritable, tired and not being able to perform well at school.

As a parent ask yourself, does my child always seem tired and cranky?  Is he or she hard to wake up in the morning?  Is he or she struggling academically?

We have a simple solution for you and your children.

 Make sure that you set up a complimentary consultation with our doctors and find out if your child has any of these problems:  mouthbreathing, teeth grinding, narrow arches or crowding. If you hear your child snoring at night, that usually indicates an airway problem and they are most likely not getting a good night’s sleep.

The good news is that it can be corrected very easily and with minimal cost.  We have treated thousands of young patients as early as age 6 and successfully redirected their jaw growth and development, at the same time drastically improving their airway.

By giving your child the opportunity to sleep soundly and long, they will have a better chance at succeeding in school, staying focused and at the same time improving their dental health.

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