If Your Child Sleeps With Their Mouth Open, They Could Have A Sleep Disorder

by Wendy Wisner
Originally Published: 
Melody Yazdani / Facebook

We all know that kids who don’t get enough sleep are apt to turn into little monsters, melting down over the smallest things, and making the lives of everyone around them a living hell. The reality is that sometimes kids don’t get enough sleep, and it really sucks. But usually a good night’s sleep puts everything back together and you can move on with your life.

However, there are some kids for whom sleep doesn’t come that easily, and the quantity and quality of their sleep is persistently problematic. These kids might actually have a sleep disorder, which is more common than most realize. It turns out sleep disorders can cause all kinds of symptoms, and not just crankiness. Behavioral issues, health issues, dental issues, and feeding issues can all be attributed to sleep disorders.

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The scary thing is that sleep disorders often go undiagnosed, so kids are living with these symptoms and no one knows that a sleep disorder is to blame.

Take the case of Melody Yazdani and her boy Kian, now 8 years old. Yazdani, a photographer, recently shared on Facebook her harrowing story of dealing with all kinds of stresses and misdiagnoses as she tried to address Kian’s troubling behavioral and health issues. Her detailed account of the experience is definitely worth a read, and will open your eyes to what it’s like to live with a child who has an undiagnosed sleep disorder.

Yazdani’s post, which touched a lot of people and went viral, tells the story of a little boy who suddenly developed a whole slew of worrying symptoms as he entered first grade. Kian started getting reports home from his teachers that he was having trouble keeping his body still, was pushing other kids, and was having angry outbursts. Kian was also having anger issues at home (starting at 5 a.m. no less) and was an extremely picky eater.

When things only seemed to get worse in second grade, Yazdani decided to take him to specialists to figure out what was going on. That only made things more confusing, she says. A therapist recommended ADHD testing. His pulmonologist and allergist could not agree on the cause of Kian’s persistent cough, each recommending different medications and antibiotics.

Meanwhile, Kian’s dentist noticed that Kian was a teeth grinder. Interestingly, that diagnosis was Yazdani’s “lightbulb” moment where she finally began to get some clarity about what was going on.

“I stumbled upon an article that changed our life,” Yazdani writes. “The article […] was about the connection between ADHD, sleep disordered breathing, and mouth breathing. Every word in this article sounded like Kian. This led me down a rabbit hole of research.”

After reading up on the matter, and consulting with an ENT, Yazdani learned that many of her son’s symptoms were a result of an undiagnosed sleep disorder. After participating in a sleep study, Yazdani found out that Kian had sleep apnea. And Kian’s symptoms – including the open mouthed breathing you see in the pic she shared – were actually caused by the sleep apnea (as well as a case of sinusitis).

“Mouth breathing is NOT NORMAL and has long term consequences for health,” writes Yazdani. “When a child breathes through their mouth, their brain (and body) is not getting enough oxygen. At night, this lowered oxygen saturation is detrimental to the quality of sleep and their brain’s ability to get enough rest.”

We caught up with Dr. W. Thomas Coombe, an an ENT from Jamestown Regional Medical Center, to help us understand sleep apnea and its affects on kids. Indeed, Dr. Coombe tells Scary Mommy, one of the symptoms of sleep apnea is open mouthed breathing, as Yazdani claimed.

“Sleep apnea occurs when tonsils, adenoids, soft palate and the tongue get in the way,” says Dr. Coombe. “When that happens, it can cause Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome (UARS).” Other symptoms of sleep apnea/UARS mirror many of Kian’s symptoms, and include:

– Snoring

– Teeth grinding

– A child who is hard to wake, and cranky in the morning

– Bed wetting

Sleep walking

– Child sleeps awkwardly, often with chin up

– Picky eater, chokes on food, difficulty swallowing

In addition, says Dr. Coombe, many kids with undiagnosed sleep apnea exhibit ADHD symptoms (hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity) at school, much like Kian did. Many of them are incorrectly diagnosed with ADHD, he says, when sleep apnea is causing their behavioral issues.

Of course, there are cases where the ADHD is its own thing, but Dr. Coombe recommends that kids diagnosed with ADHD see an ENT to rule out a UARS/sleep apnea.

“Children with behavioral issues are often diagnosed with ADHD, however, before starting medication, schedule an appointment with an Ear, Nose and Throat specialist to rule out undiagnosed sleep disorders,” Dr. Coombe says. “One of the most common treatments is a small surgery to remove the tonsils and/or adenoids.”

That procedure – removal of his tonsils and adenoids – is just what helped little Kian, says Yazdani. After the procedure, it was like night and day for the boy.

“We have seen a complete 180 in behavior,” Yazdani writes. “No more angry tantrums, no more fixation on little OCD things, it’s been an enormous change.” He’s also had much improved sleep, no new behavior reports in school – and his appetite “has exploded,” reports the proud mom.

“[H]e’s no longer a picky eater, and he had a huge growth spurt two weeks after the surgery,” she says.

Wow. This truly is mind-blowing and totally eye-opening.

In the post, which is full of comments from parents whose kids have symptoms similar to to Kian’s, Yazdani writes that her only regret is that she didn’t know of any this sooner, and she wonders why no one told her about this in her 12 years of parenting. She urges any parent whose kids has any of these symptoms to go to an ENT specialist ASAP to check things out.

“If any of this is raising red flags in your mind, if this sounds like your child, if your child has been diagnosed with ADHD, please see an ENT and get a sleep study,” Yazdani writes. “It may just change your life.”

Obviously you should never self-diagnose, but if you have a kid with these symptoms, it’s definitely worth going to a doctor and checking it out. Your child deserves to live a happy and healthy life, and getting a proper diagnosis and treatment for whatever they are dealing with can make a world of difference.

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