Children and adults who grind their teeth at night are showing Red Flags for Sleep Disordered Breathing.
Sleep Apnoea is a condition where the breathing has long pauses (Apnoeas) many times a night. Often, this is due to the airway becoming shut off by the tongue or other structures. It was always considered an adult onset disease of chronic stress and obesity, but this is changing. Sleep Apnoea is on the rise, especially in young children, and weight has absolutely nothing to do with it.
Sleep Apnoea is a difficult condition to treat as it requires the use of appliances or machines called CPAP machines that continually blow air down the airway to stop it closing during sleep. Other interventions include bronchodilator medicines and / or surgeries.
Teeth Grinding is often an early sign that the airway is compromised. New evidence is emerging to show that teeth grinding is a response to lowered pharyngeal airway pressure. As the airway starts to become occluded or closed and the pressure inside the airway increases, the brain sends a message to the lower jaw to reposition itself to keep the airway open. This action of mechanically pushing the lower jaw forward can relocate the hyoid bone that the tongue is attached to, and shift tongue position successfully to ensure the airway stops closing.
Our Bodies are Self Healing and Self Regulating. These functions and abilities are dependent on good oxygen supply to all the tissues and structures of the body to work correctly. When the body cannot self heal or self regulate, it takes protective action. Some of these protective actions include teeth grinding!
If you just address the grinding as if it is solely caused by anxiety, you will only be treating a tiny aspect of the condition and be preventing your body from saving you from sleep apnoea.
Sleep Apnoea has been successfully managed using Buteyko techniques for decades. Buteyko does not need you to stop using medically prescribed treatments to work. However, Buteyko is so powerful that these small changes can often reduce symptoms, thereby reducing the need for medications.
Changing breathing behaviour in the day can also assist to change it at night. How you breathe during the day, determines your breathing pattern at night. Because the respiratory centre of the brain can adapt very quickly to changes in breathing, Buteyko techniques are quickly integrated as good breathing patterns. Sleep Apnoea is just another symptom of disordered breathing. Sleep Apnoea is disordered breathing that happens at night. Most studies show that people with Sleep Apnoea all have disordered breathing during the daytime. Lying down and relaxing contributes to the symptoms, but is not ultimately the cause of them.
If you are unaware of the fact that your brain adapts to accept chronic disordered breathing patterns as “Normal”, you can worsen your breathing without realizing it (by doing breathing exercises that change the natural breathing pattern, for example).
©Buteyko South Africa