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Myofunctional therapy, sports, screen time, sensory OT...oh my. Part 2 our children's sleep apnea journey.

As parents, we're bombarded with questions about how long/much our little ones sleep, but is anyone asking about the quality of their sleep? I guess we're just supposed to sit back and hope they'll magically outgrow any problems. Spoiler alert: if we don't tackle the root causes now, our kids will just find creative new ways to drive us crazy later on. Everyone's all like "Sleep is so important!" but hardly anyone is looking at the big picture. It's like trying to fix a leaky boat with a band-aid!

Here we are now - Expanding their palates, gradually delving into the underlying fascia and sensory processing through bodywork and daily routines like removing our shoes... and there is more to come, of course.

At some point, I began to change my mindset. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the idea of achieving the end goal of 'no sleep apnea episodes and two boys who breathe soundly through their noses all night', or the pressure to find a single solution (as there isn't one fix for sleep-disordered breathing patterns), I started asking myself, "What can we do daily to support their sleep?" As their mother, my instinct is to solve their problems quickly, but I'm focusing on long-term functionality and tools. I understand it's a lengthy journey, but in the end, our breathing pattern and a restful night's sleep are what truly matter.

Myofunctional therapy - Targets oral / facial motor movements to address function. The priorities in myofunctional therapy- nose breathing, tongue sealed to roof of mouth and an unclenched jaw.

Myofunctional therapy emphasizes the importance of nose breathing, positioning the tongue correctly on the palate, and maintaining a relaxed jaw, particularly for individuals with Sleep Disordered Breathing (SDB). These therapy sessions involve targeted oral facial motor exercises designed to improve functionality. They were assigned 3-5 exercises they completed 3-5 times a day, with consistency being key to achieving results. Drawing from my expertise in oral habilitation for infants, I really enjoyed these! I found at their age they were particularly receptive to these exercises, as they are old enough to comprehend and engage with the routine. We still hit challenges like emotional reactions (tears, yelling), these exercises are laborious and repetitive, witnessing their progress was rewarding. As we prepare for an upcoming tongue tie release procedure later this year, myofunctional therapy remains an essential component of the preparation process. Stay tuned for updates on our continued journey.

Sports. Needed physical movement to organize the body and mind, helps with restful sleep.

Starting from intrauterine constraint, fascial strains and structural asymmetries, particularly in the jaws and necks, are likely due to retained reflexes and delayed/missed milestones like crawling and walking. It is essential to address these factors when a child is experiencing difficulty breathing through their nose and having quality sleep, as they all impact the body's nervous system's ability to promote restful sleep that aids in recovery and healing. We integrated weekly sports and agility training, which use foundational movements that can be traced back to rolling and crawling for example. Despite their full-time school schedule, we incorporated these activities after school hours, recognizing the importance of counteracting the sedentary nature of the school day. The constant state of alertness during school hours can lead to physical tension, making movement crucial for releasing the body. We observed significant improvement in their physical well-being as they engaged in challenging activities like speed drills, crossbody movements, climbing, pushing, and jumping. Understanding the impact of daily activity levels on sleep, I have shifted my perspective on post-school activities, realizing the necessity of physical movement for a child in a traditional school environment.

Screen time. For hyperactive children and children who have restless sleep, screen time can perpetuate ongoing issues.

It made no sense to me to continue to have daily screen time for my kids who are struggling to sleep. Countless research has found the negative impact screens can have on our sleep and daily function. So we used a cold turkey approach and Mon-Thurs we have no screens to include video games, ipads, tv. After a week i wasn't even asked about tv anymore and it was cool to find them doing legos, art or playing on backyard playground. Those little moments or hours when screens would fill in the gaps, they now have to allow their brain to get creative, and experience the magic of boredom! It's one of my favorite aspects we've implemented as a family. It's an easy way to work the creative parts of the brain, this activation allows for nervous system regulation- and great for a growing brain.

One thing I wasn't prepared for- The house being messy so often. We cant have it all, like a consistently clean house AND kids who are creating and playing, right?

Sensory occupational therapy (OT)- Retained reflexes, nervous system regulation. Many of the symptoms and causes of sleep issues can be addressed with this therapy.

"When we organize the body, we organize the mind." I found the resource of sensory OT and the way it intertwines with infant feeding issues is amazing! Many of the root causes and symptoms of SDB can be addressed with sensory OT. Retained reflexes, sensory seeking/avoiding are some of my favorite. This therapy offers tools to manage emotions by using the body (cross body movements, hanging, pushing, crawling ect) It teaches a child to separate their emotions from themselves- we FEEL angry, we are not a bad angry person. Our nervous system needs to feel safe in order to put us in a rest and digest parasympathetic state. Not being able to process emotions will keep us in a sympathetic nervous system state- affecting our daily lives and of course a restful night sleep. Imagine retained reflexes like wanting to reach for a needed cup of water but you can never make it. If our primitive reflexes never have a chance to integrate (by being able to move thru these reflexes over and over as an infant) they will retain and go to another part of the brain where it often provides a symptom of being "stuck." They are high risk for this because of their twin gestation, preterm and cesarean delivery. Because of their adoption history, i often wonder how often they were held, how much comfort was provided in the first couple years which is how a baby is able to express these movements and reflexes.

Part 3 will be coming up later this year- homeschooling, frenectomy and nutrition.

Sleep and breathing are a journey

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