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Old 17 July 2010, 12:26 PM
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Default Sleep-Disordered Breathing

With our modern diet, we get plenty of calories in our developing years without having to chew much. Compare this with earlier diets of tough meats and other foods that required much chewing.

Much chewing during the developing years causes the skeleton of the jaw to grow deep and wide. Today, without this chewing, the population tends to have underdeveloped jaws - narrow side-to-side and front-to-back.

The evidence of this is in the high prevalence of recessed chins and crowded teeth. Crowded teeth are treated with ortodontic devices and tooth extractions. The jaw is not wide enough and deep enough to accomodate a normal amount of teeth. Wisdom teeth are often extracted because of lack of space.

With narrower jaws we have narrower breathing airways. Our tongues and soft palates are crowded in the jaw. When we fall asleep all of our muscles naturally relax and our tongues and soft palates relax and tend to fall back into our narrow airways. This causes full (apneas) or partial (hypopneas, Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome) blockages of our airways. These conditions are called sleep-disordered-breathing (SDB). Sleep apnea is one of the conditions that falls under the umbrella of SDB.

When women become pregnant they gain weight. The additional weight is not just in the abdomen area, it is all over including the neck, the tongue and the soft palate.

Women who do not have SDB, but do have small jaws, often develop SDB during pregnancy due to the weight gain. Women who already have SDB will find that the weight gain from pregnancy increases the severity of their SDB.

With SDB, the patient experiences many arousals from sleep each night so that the muscles of the tongue and soft palate will flex and clear the airway obstruction. Sleep architecture and the amount of sleep are well below normal. Oxygen deprivation is also very common.

You can understand how a person who is sleep deprived and experiencing oxygen deprivation will not function well cognitively!!

BTW, the medical profession has been terribly ignorant of SDB, not only in pregnant women but also in the general population. During the last few years this is starting to gradually change.
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