Undoubtably, sleep is one the most fundamental functions that ensures proper activity of the human body. During sleep our bodies restore and repair and our brain forms new neuronal connections building upon our memory matrix. Ongoing disruption in our sleep duration and quality leads to slow erosion of health in the long term. Among many reasons for sleep disturbances, snoring or sleep apnea is by far the most common and most impactful one. Sleep apnea is a series of repetitive, temporary interruptions in breathing while asleep and is one of the first signs of airway collapse or obstruction, secondary to poor tongue posture or underdeveloped jaw. Apnea decreases the amount of oxygen delivered to your vital organs such as heart and brain. The consequences can be severe and affect your entire body. The health burden of sleep apnea is high in all areas of medicine and it is associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality and morbidity if left unmanaged.
Brain scans of patients with sleep apnea show that our brain suffers damage during apneic episodes. Specifically, the regions of our brain responsible for control of breathing, blood pressure, motor coordination, memory and attention are involved. These areas are also damaged in chronic diseases such as dementia, heart disease and in ADHD among many others. Considered a condition of the older population, in the recent years sleep apnea is frequently evaluated in children with enormous impact on their development and ability to learn. For example, around 25% of all children experience some type of sleep problem and sleep complaints in children with ADHD have been reported in 55% of the cases. This could be one of the many underlying factors for chronic disease in our youth.
The causes of sleep apnea in children and adults are numerous and include vitamin and nutrient deficiencies during pregnancy and early development, lack of breastfeeding, and a diet deficient of fibrous foods that require chewing to strengthen the masticating muscles. Specifically, vitamin D deficiency has been linked with an underdeveloped jaw and airway muscle weakness in children. Breastfeeding provides an opportunity for the baby to widen their palate and strengthen their tongue reducing the risk of airway obstruction and strengthens the tongue muscles. Obesity and inflammation are two other contributing factors.
Functional treatments for sleep apnea along with biometric oral appliances are effective at correcting this problem and take a multi modal approach. They include strengthening the muscles that support the airway, postural reeducation to promote proper airway alignment with physical therapy, breathing reeducation with biofeedback therapy, exercising the tongue and jaw muscle by eating whole, fibrous foods that require chewing, eating a diet that provides nutrient dense foods and exercising consistently to support oxygen delivery to the brain. At NMR we understand the severe health consequences of sleep apnea and provide solutions in a teamoriented manner. Our team includes disciplines such as physical therapy, chiropractic care-particularly of the upper cervical region, functional medicine, biofeedback and holistic dentistry with a novel and innovative approach to airway management.