Mouth Breathing and Sleep Disorders in Children “Jaw Position & Sleep Quality”

Sleep is important for the overall emotional, mental, physical and behavioural well being of a child. Paediatric sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) refers to the obstructions to breathing like mouth breathing, noisy breathing, snoring etc. In short, it is the disturbance in regular respiratory patterns & ventilation that a child experiences during sleep.

One of the early signs of SDB is mouth breathing during sleep, which can slowly progress to snoring and sleep apnea. Sleep-disordered breathing symptoms include:

Changing positions often while sleeping

Nasal congestion in the morning

Sleeping with an open mouth

Audible breathing sounds

Loudly snoring


Learning difficulties


Limited attention and concentration

Stunted growth

Hyperactive behaviour

Crankiness even after a full night’s sleep

It can also cause obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), which is a condition that sometimes blocks/obstructs the upper airway for 5-10 seconds during sleep. Untreated obstructive sleep apnea can lead to behavioural, neuropsychiatric and developmental issues in kids. It can also increase the risk of metabolic disorders, cardiovascular disease, obesity, among others.

How is Sleep Disorders in Children Diagnosed?

Paediatric sleep-disordered breathing (SDB) is diagnosed based on:

Physical examination

Questionnaires and viewing of some recorded videos of the child’s sleeping

Family history of OSA

Medical conditions such as cerebral palsy or Down syndrome

If your child is a restless sleeper or displays any of the above symptoms, then you must consult with a sleep disorder specialist. An airway focused specialist/dentist will conduct a thorough examination to identify issues causing sleep apnea and breathing problems in your child.


Mouth breathing can present in an array of symptom which only get more severe with age hence it is best to identify and correct it as early as possible.

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Paediatric Sleep-disordered Breathing (SDB) Treatments

To treat sleep disorders in children, we follow a multidisciplinary holistic approach.

Once the likely cause of sleep disorder or obstructive sleep apnea is identified, we can treat SDB with:

We aim to treat not only the symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing but also ensure to enhance the child’s overall wellness. Another SDB treatment includes Correction of Tongue Function and Mobility. It can help improve nasal breathing and correct the position & function of the tongue, which can open up the airway passage.

In the case of enlarged tonsils and adenoids causing paediatric SDB, a combination of breath retraining and myofunctional therapy is used. Surgery (tonsillectomy and adenoidectomy) may be recommended only in cases where conservative approaches may not be successful. Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is another likely treatment. Also, if excess weight is causing sleep apnea or breathing problems, the specialist may suggest dietary & lifestyle changes to maintain a healthy weight.

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