Ear, Nose and Throat Medicine (ENT) and Sleep Disorders

During child development from infancy the child is sleeping most of the time. During sleep the most active growth is in the orofacial areas. If the infant’s sleep is disturbed chronically from, say, ear infections, the facial features of the child will not grow adequately. If you ask an orthodontist about abnormal teeth growth, or ENT doctors about narrow upper airways in children, they will tell you that many of these children had or presently have chronic sleep problems.

Abnormal or deformed external facial characteristics, like a small or large chin, bags under the eyes, large or small tongue, adenoids and tonsils, etc. are related to abnormal release of the growth hormone. Growth hormone is produced in the deep stages of sleep, so to put it bluntly, if sleep is deformed, your face will be deformed.

Our senses do not “sleep” in sleep like we assume. We are hearing, seeing, smelling, tasting and touching the world outside of our consciousness. Our senses and our skills mature in sleep. For example, an infant’s first cry and first words are usually in sleep. Puppies start to bark first in sleep. It is of special interest that we sense not only what is going on around us, sometimes more acutely than while we are awake, but sense what is INSIDE of us and our brain is translating these sensations into dreams. What pictures we are seeing in our dreams are irrelevant, but how our body reacts and what sensations do we feel are of major diagnostic importance. For example, when one patient complained of hearing repetitive loud banging of a church bell in his left occipital area associated with bright lights, doctors strongly suspect upcoming stroke in that area. Another patient kept telling us that he had repetitive dreams with terrible odor and doctors found a brain tumor.

The most important function of rhythmic breathing is related to the upper airways and is associated with problems with mouth breathing. Nasal breathing through each nostril is alternated in sleep. If the person has mouth breathing he/she will develop hyperactivity, irritability and learning problems.

Any abnormality in anatomy or functions in the ear, nose or throat areas is directly related to such serious sleep disorders, like obstructive sleep apneas, bruxism (teeth grinding and jaw clenching), periodic limb movements, sleepwalking (somnambulism), night terrors, bedwetting (enuresis), nocturnal asthma, sleep-related seizures, heart arrhythmias and many others.

As Mishail Shapiro, DO, an ENT specialist and plastic surgeon, stated, “There are almost no ear, nose and throat problems that do not disturb sleep.” We could add that there are almost no serious sleep disorders that are not reflected in the ENT medicine.

Dina Golbin, Medical Student – OMSII

Chicago College of Osteopathic Medicine at

Midwestern University

Registered Polysomnography (sleep) Technician (RPSGT)

Founder and President of the Student ENT Society (SENTS)

Managing Editor, Sleep and Health