Sleepy Lambs Sleep Tips & More!
Breathing. It seems simple enough.
The reality is, it’s a bit more complicated.
Did you know there’s a healthy way to breathe and an unhealthy way? There’s a good chance that you haven’t even given “the way you breathe” much thought because, after all, you’re still alive, so you’re clearly breathing!
Mouth breathing, however, can lead to a myriad of health problems, sleep deprivation and permanently change the shape of your face.
From Day 1
Babies are born breathing in and out from their noses (once the initial nasal mucous from birth is gone). It makes sense, right? They need to be able to breathe while they feed.
Newborns, for the first 3 to 4 months, can’t breathe through their open mouths unless they are crying. It explains why a little nasal congestion is so miserable for a baby and, if they’re struggling to breathe, they may need some help clearing it as they are unable to do so on their own.
Without the presence of a cold, virus or blocked nasal passages, your baby should be breathing through their nose, and so should you.
It may seem harmless because it’s easy to think that it doesn’t matter how you breathe but as long as you’re breathing, you’re still alive. The consequences of breathing through your mouth over the long term are significant.
How Mouth Breathing Begins
Mouth breathing can become a new habit at any time. It could just take a cold or a virus to cause you to sleep with your mouth open. I’m just getting over a sinus infection after 3 weeks and woke up every morning feeling terrible because of the mouth breathing. It’s not a great feeling.
In babies and young children, mouth breathing can start for a variety of reasons:
- Reflux or silent reflux – babies with reflux are often congested and sound like they are congested. This is due to milk going into the nasal passages as it comes up, causing inflammation.
- Colic – Babies mouth-breathe when they cry.
- The room is too warm
- Newborns can take a few days to clear the mucous from their nasal passageways from birth
- Prolonged use of dummy/pacifier or thumb-sucking – eventually can change the natural resting location of the tongue in the mouth, which should be against the palate.
So, What’s the Big Deal?
Prolonged mouth breathing can lead to a variety of medical, physical, dental, emotional and behavioural challenges.
Read below for the possible effects of mouth breathing for both babies and adults:
- Underdeveloped arch in the mouth, which can lead to teeth-crowding and a smaller jaw.
- “Gummy” smile
- A long and narrow face
- Forward head posture
- Poor growth
- Enlarged tonsils and adenoids
- Throat and ear infections
- Gingivitis (gum disease)
- Dental cavities
- Bad breath due to the increased bacteria in a dry mouth
- Increased rates of viral and bacterial infections
- Symptoms and behaviours similar to behaviours associated with ADHD or ODD
- Obstructive sleep apnea
- Speech difficulties
- Chronic fatigue
- Waking up tired
- Lower levels oxygen concentration in the bloodstream, which can lead to high blood pressure & heart problems
Wow! That’s a lot and a little overwhelming!
Meet Connor Deegan
This YouTube video resonated with me immensely when I first saw it a few years ago. Connor was a teenager who had struggled immensely with his behaviour at home and at school. He was from a loving family and his school got to a just before they agreed to move him to a special needs class because his behaviour was so disruptive, his parents took him to every medical professional they could think of.
- A sleep study showed obstructive breathing, snoring arousals and he was grinding his teeth.
- Allergy testing showed that he was allergic to pets and several types of trees
- Since he was mouth-breathing 24 hours a day, it had a massive impact on the development of his mouth and airway as well as his own development.
- His tonsils and adenoids were enlarged, causing his airway to become obstructed.
After having the complete diagnosis, the following happened:
- Started allergy medication to stop the nasal congestion
- Tonsils and adenoids were removed
- Dental surgery to his mouth and tongue
After everything was addressed, Connor was able to breathe properly through his nose and the quality of his sleep improved drastically.
The vastly improved sleep made a significant improvement in his behaviour and his grades at school. I’ll post the link to the video below. I found it incredibly moving and inspiring to any parent of a child who is struggling. There are frequently answers when we know the cause.
So, what can you do?
Observe! Start by being aware of the importance of breathing through the nose for yourself and those around you. Your heightened sense of awareness is an important first step and your observations while awake or sleeping will help.
If the cause is temporary nasal congestion due to illness, it will likely pass quickly and your little one will be back to nasal breathing very soon. If it continues, however, it may warrant further investigation.
Babies who mouth breathe typically need to unlatch from the breast or bottle while feeding in order to breathe. They may also feed more restlessly, as it’s uncomfortable for them. The restless feeding can lead to swallowing more air, causing more wind or gas, as well as symptoms of reflux.
If you know your baby can breathe okay through her nose, gently close her mouth if you notice her mouth open while she’s sleeping.
Finding the source of the problem and treating it is an essential first step. With chronic congestion, consider allergies, reflux, a deviated septum, or an uncorrected tongue tie.
Visit your GP to discuss and if you need further support, request a referral to a paediatrician (for children) or a specialist, preferably one with a specialty in breathing and sleep.
Another trusted expert is your family dentist! “Dentists look for the signs of mouth breathing at every check-up,” says Dr. Lizet Horn, principal dentist at Worthing Road Dental Practice in Horsham, West Sussex. “We will advise patients and their parents of any concerns and may suggest stopping the use of a bottle or dummy if we can see a problem developing. We certainly encourage parents and any adults who are concerned about mouth breathing to discuss their concerns with their dentist as mouth breathing can have a significant impact on their oral and physical health.”
With adults, look for having the mouth slightly open while awake or sleeping, snoring or sleep apnea, asthma symptoms getting worse, TMJ (jaw) problems, bad breath, waking up feeling irritated or not feeling well-rested, speech challenges or a lisp – particularly with “s” sounds, hoarse sounding voice due to dry mouth.
If you’re experiencing any or some of these symptoms, make an appointment to see your doctor or dentist. If snoring is the symptom, try and take a video of the snoring, which may be very helpful in any diagnosis. Remember, snoring isn’t healthy.
Here are a few links you may find helpful!
Finding Connor Deegan – YouTube – The American Academy of Physiological Medicine and Dentistry
Mouth breathing: Symptoms, complications, and treatment – MedicalNewsToday.com
6 Reasons Why Newborns Have Stuffy Noses – Dr. Howard J. Bennett – paediatrician – HuffingtonPost.com
Mouth breathing: Adverse effects on facial growth, health, academics, and behavior – Yosh Jefferson, DMD, MAGD – featured in Academy of General Dentistry
Newborn Sleeps with Mouth Open – Should You Be Worried? – Stacy Belk – Momwoot.com
Mouth breathing negatively affect children’s smile, teeth, face and airways (interesting images) – Anders Olsson – ConsciousBreathing.com
Join our #SleepTips for #SleepyParents group for excellent support, sleep tips and advice on how to make sleep a priority for your family! It’s a good place to navigate through all of the (unsolicited and conflicting) advice you’re probably receiving.
Mary Foster is a sleep specialist, an entrepreneur and mum of three little ones (at one time three under three). Mary’s a proud Canadian, living in Hampshire, England and is passionate about healthy sleep with a strong focus on emotional wellness. She’s the founder of Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consulting and loves supporting parents and helping newborns, babies, toddlers and young children learn to sleep better with a strong focus on emotional health and wellness. Watch out for the new Sleepy Lambs Sleep Academy, launching soon! Click here to message her.
Let’s face it. There are many sleep gimmicks out there. I speak with families all the time who have spent a lot of money on products that they just hope will help their child sleep better. Unfortunately, most don’t address the reason WHY the little one isn’t sleeping well, so, in the end, they don’t work. It’s frustrating. I get it. Parents just want their children to sleep, and they want solutions.
This week I had the chance to check out a new product that could help your toddler or young child sleep better in their bed. Fidgetbum is the invention of Surrey-based Mel Wood. When Mel’s younger daughter struggled with the transition from her cot to bed, Mel decided to create something that would help her daughter feel snug and secure in her new bed and help her daughter stay warm and keep her covers on.
Toddlers Like to “Move it, Move it!!
If you have a toddler or young child, you know that they don’t typically stay still when they sleep. Younger toddlers can struggle to pull up their blankets until they’re three or four years old. Fidgetbum has been designed to allow children to comfortably move around but keep their blankets on. The soft four-way elastic fabric instils that feeling of security, that can help many toddlers and young children feel more secure in their beds. Fidgetbum can also reduce the possibility of your little one falling out of bed.
Fidgetbum is easy to install, going under the mattress and coming together on top with a heavy duty zipper up the middle. It’s machine washable
Let’s Give it a Go!
So, Grace, our lovely but headstrong three-year-old, has been sleeping restlessly lately. She’s been getting up to see us when us uses the toilet in the night and wanting a cuddle. Firstly, I don’t have a problem with it and we quite enjoy the sweet, peaceful cuddles but we would prefer for her to get a solid rest. Being three years old is all about being busy and going non-stop. If she doesn’t get enough sleep, we notice that she is more likely to struggle in the day, and is overtired. She’s the perfect candidate for Fidgetbum!
At first, Grace was excited about giving it a try and then was unsure and wouldn’t let us zip it up the first night. That’s okay. I certainly didn’t didn’t force it and left it unzipped. It wasn’t going to work if she didn’t want it on.
On the second night, Grace requested us to zip it up. (I’m thinking it may have had something to do with her older sister wanting it on her bed!). We zipped it up, and she slept well. All night! She did get up once on her own to use the toilet but went back to bed and crawled back under her duvet and the Fidgetbum. Woohoo! Success!
Since we started using Fidgetbum several days ago, Grace has stayed in her bed most nights, without coming out to look for cuddles. I think that’s a major step forward! Even though she didn’t have a sleep problem, I think the feeling of security that Fidgetbum provides helps her feel more secure in her bed.
Special Needs, Sensory Disorders
Most of us love hugs and feel calmer, and more secure after getting a hug. After checking Fidgetbum out, I think it would be an excellent product to help children who are restless sleepers or children who experience sensory processing challenges or disorders. The light level of pressure from the elasticised fabric can help children sleep better by keeping them warmer and adding some light pressure, like a hug, to help them feel safe and secure.
Check out the video below and learn more about Fidgetbum, with the help of my daughters!
Visit the Fidgetbum website to learn more about the product and where you can purchase it. There’s 15% OFF until 31 December!
Mary Foster is a certified sleep consultant and founder of Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consulting and the popular Sleepy Lambs Sleep Academy. She has an amazing husband, and they had three little ones in 3 years (along with an international move at seven months pregnant with #3, which just means she’s a little crazy and adventurous). Their little “lambs” keep her busy, with their oldest newly 7, their middle one 5 1/2 and their youngest 3 1/2.
Mary is Canadian and is based in Petersfield, Hampshire in England. She has supported hundreds of families in Hampshire, Surrey, Berkshire and Sussex as well as around the world in 11 countries, to date. Mary’s unique approach is holistic and focuses on emotional wellness, always respectful of parenting choices. Click here to send her an email.
Disclaimer: I have been provided with a Fidgetbum to try and evaluate whether it would be helpful for the families I support. I have not received any additional compensation for this review, and I am not receiving any commission on products sold. Comments and opinions on this product or other products I may review are expressly my own.
It’s a common misconception that sleep challenges are confined to the baby years. If you’re the sleep-deprived parent of a baby, it’s hard to imagine it could get more challenging. The reality is, it can. (Sorry! I know it may not be what you want to hear right now.) Toddler sleep problems frequently have different causes than baby sleep challenges and the approach to improved sleep is ENTIRELY different.
Baby sleep challenges frequently turn into toddler challenges
Babies frequently don’t “eventually” grow out of their sleep problems. “More than 40% of infants who have sleep disorders at the age 8 months also have sleep disorders at age 3 years.” (Zuckerman B et al. 1987). According to another study, “84% of infants who suffered sleep disorders at the age of 15-48 months had these findings by the age of 3 years, while only 3% of infants without the signs of sleep problems at initial inspection were found to have these problems at 3 years.” (Kataria S et al. 1987)
My own (completely unscientific) study would confirm these studies. With the toddlers and young children I’ve worked with (15 months – age 6), I can’t remember one child that didn’t also have a history of sleep challenges as a baby.
Again, I promise I don’t say this to make you feel worse. I know it may seem really discouraging if you have a baby who won’t sleep. I certainly wish I had known this with my oldest son and his sleep struggles. Not focusing and resolving his sleep challenges while he was a baby is one of my biggest parenting regrets. I also see it almost daily with the families that I work with. I’ve heard over and over “I thought they would grow out of it but he’s 2.5 now and still waking up multiple times a night. I’m so exhausted and at my wits end.”
I say it because I don’t want you to struggle for years on end, especially if there are things you can do about it now.
Improved sleep doesn’t have to mean “sleep training” or CIO
I promise that it’s not the ONLY answer. There are so many factors involved in sleep and the first step is always to figure out the cause of the sleep challenge first. Often, the basics of sleep science are completely opposite to common sense. A prime example would be; “My 18-month-old doesn’t fall asleep until late and wakes up multiple times a night. He obviously doesn’t need as much sleep and we’re going to cut out his naps so that he sleeps better at night.”
I hear those words constantly, whether from families I work with or in parenting groups on Facebook. It would make common sense that if a little one is not sleeping at night that keeping them up in the day would help. Reality (and science) says, the opposite is true.
When babies and toddlers (and adults) are overtired, their little bodies produce stress hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline. When these stress hormones flood the system, it gives them a second wind, causing them to fight going to sleep, sleep more restlessly and wake up sooner.
Have you noticed that you kept your toddler up later than usual and thought; “They’ve had an extra exhausting day. I’m sure they’ll sleep well tonight and hopefully sleep in later in the morning.” What typically happens? They can wake up more often and wake at the same time, or even earlier. That’s due to the stress hormones.
FREE help is on the way!
This week I’ll be releasing a new FREE video “How to help your little one sleep better, WITHOUT sleep training.” The video will give you tools that you can implement immediately to help your baby, toddler or young child sleep better.
Keep an eye out on our Facebook page for more details. Also, if you have a toddler, check out today’s weekly “Your Sleep Questions Answered” video, where I answer several questions from tired parents and their toddler sleep challenges. If you have your own sleep question that you’d like me to answer, just submit it here.
Mary Foster is a certified sleep consultant and founder of Sleepy Lambs Sleep Consulting and the popular Sleepy Lambs Sleep Academy. She had 3 little ones in 3 years (along with an international move at 7 months pregnant with #3, which just means she’s a little crazy and adventurous). Her little “lambs” keep her busy, with her oldest just turned 6, middle one almost 5 and the youngest is almost 3.
Mary is Canadian and is based in Surrey, UK, near the Hampshire and Berkshire border. She has supported hundreds of families in 11 countries. Mary’s unique approach is always holistic and focuses on emotional wellness, always respectful of parenting choices. Click here to send her an email.