Although sleep disorders affect people of all ages, preventing them is something that can be done very early in life. That’s because sleep disorders often stem from poor early development of the jaw.
Every human has the potential to develop a healthy jaw size, one that allows for the teeth and the tongue—everything that resides in the mouth—to function properly. A number of factors determine jaw development. Race and area of the world determines jaw size, as does the diet of the mother and of previous generations.
When the mother consumes enough of the proper nutrients before and during pregnancy, then the child’s jawbone has the potential to form as a wide, flat plane. That is the ideal shape to allow for the unobstructed formation of all teeth in the mouth. However, a lack of sufficient nutrients consumed by the mother during the formative period can lead to improper jaw formation. The result is problems such as crowded teeth, a high and arched palate, poor tongue posture, underbites or over bites, speech and swallowing difficulties, and potentially obstructed breathing.
However, the primary reason for improper development is lack of breastfeeding of the newborn. When a child is not breastfed for a minimum of 18 months, the neuromuscular and oral facial muscles are deprived of the stimulation needed for proper arch development. When the facial muscles are not developed properly through the act of suckling that occurs during breastfeeding, then the upper jaw does not grow laterally, into that ideally shaped wide, flat palate.
During breastfeeding, the infant presses the tip of their tongue to their upper palate, training the tongue to be forward and out of the back of the throat. But when suckling from a bottle, the flow of liquid is often so forceful that the infant uses their tongue to slow the flow, creating poor tongue posture. Their tongue is forced into the back of their throat where it can create an obstruction and cause swallowing and breathing issues. They develop a high, narrow, arched palate that crowds the teeth and reduces the space for the tongue. That may restrict the nasal passages and result in mouth breathing, which can also cause many health issues.
Nasal breathing is necessary for keeping the body healthy. The nasal passages were designed to dehumidify the air breathed, reduce infections by trapping allergens, and produce the nitric oxide that the body’s cells need to communicate. Mouth breathing can cause tooth decay, chronic ear infections, allergies, inflammation of tonsils and adenoids, and a host of health problems.
So when sleep problems appear to be caused by an airway obstruction in the form of an enlarged tongue, the real culprit is more likely a small jaw—and that’s something that develops very early in life.