How sleep is impacted after one year of palate expansion
I was tired of waking up tired. So I decided to do something about it.
Let’s dive into all the changes that have happened within the last year!
Check out the video, podcast, and blog below to learn about it!
Treatments I’ve had this past year
I must confess…
I’m the worst scientist ever.
Instead of isolating treatment variables, I’ve done a bunch of different interventions. Some of these treatments happen in concert with the Crozat appliance, others do not.
The different treatments that I’ve done included:
- Crozat appliance
- Myofunctional therapy
- Lip taping
- Vivaer procedure
The first three interventions are generally performed together, but the Vivaer procedure was something extra I did to improve nasal breathing.
Let’s learn a bit more about each.
The Crozat is a tooth-borne appliance that pushes the teeth out in the alveolar bone, making more room for the tongue to sit against the roof of the mouth.
A common misconception surrounding this appliance and those similar is that it makes the palate bigger. Nothing changes in terms of palate bone structure with this device. Instead, teeth are moved as far out as possible in the alveolar bone, hence why the Crozat is considered tooth-borne. This appliance type is different from a bone-borne appliance, which is often screwed into the bone, changing the palatal structure itself.
Myofunctional therapy is essentially tongue physical therapy. Although this was my second bout (I did some before and after my tongue-tie release), I did work on a few new skills that I hadn’t previously.
Perhaps the biggest area we worked on was improving the ability to differentiate my tongue from my jaw, neck, and facial muscles. Although my tongue range of motion was good, I had a difficult time moving my tongue independently. We therefore practice really isolating tongue movement.
The hardest skill for me to master was gathering food and swallowing. My tendency was to drop food on the sides of my mouth while chewing and then thrust my tongue during the swallow.
For those who don’t know, a tongue thrust is when you push your tongue forward or sideways into the teeth, instead of keeping it on the roof of your mouth.
Lip taping with myotape
It’s easy to keep your tongue on the roof of the mouth during the day, but what about while you sleep fam? Are you gonna be mouth breathing and snoring and all that?
HELL TO THE NO.
To mitigate this tendency, Dr. Hockel recommended that I lip tape, and my myofunctional therapist suggested Myotape as what to use.
Myotape is essentially kinesiotape that goes around your lips. The tape’s positioning encourages an active lip seal, necessary for good nasal breathing posture.
Despite all these treatments, nasal breathing was still a struggle, especially with physical activity. Maximizing tongue posture didn’t seem to do the trick.
After having great success with the Mute Nasal Dilator, I wanted a more permanent fix.
I consulted with Dr. Soroush Zaghi, the ENT who did my tongue tie surgery, on what to do. He recommended I do the Vivaer procedure, which changes the shape of the nasal cartilage to better promote nasal breathing. I had that procedure about 10 weeks ago from this time of writing.
I’ll be doing a separate post on all this procedure, so stay tuned 😉
Key Performance Indicators
What doesn’t get measured, doesn’t get managed. So I looked at several key performance indicators (KPIs) to determine efficacy thus far.
Thse are my most important subjective and objective measures:
- Subjective sleep quality
- Neck pain
- Tongue posture
- Nasal breathing capability
- Sleep study
Results 1 year into Palatal Expansion Treatment
In just one year’s time, my teeth moved like CRAZY.
Here’s a comparison of what my teeth looked like in January 2020 vs June 2021.
As you can see, there is quite a bit more space both sagittally and laterally. The side to side width change is between 5-7mm, which is pretty significant. Typically, a 5mm difference is considered good for a surgical outcome, so to achieve this amount with mere tooth movement was pretty cool.
But this increased space came at a cost.
The downside about tooth-borne appliances is that the increased risk of gum recession. If the gums recede enough, I could either lose teeth or get some gnarly cavities.
Sadly, I did get a bit of recession on two of my molars:
Dr. Hockel didn’t seem to think the recession was bad enough that I’d lose the teeth, but I may need to finish treatment with some gum grafts, which unfortunately are not cheap. I’ll have to do some research on what would be the best course of action.
So now that you’ve seen what’s changed about my mouth, you might be wondering what results happened from all this crazy stuff I’ve done. Was the chance of sleeping better worth receding gum?
Let’s re-evaluate my KPIs.
Subjective sleep quality
Though far from perfect, my sleep quality has improved drastically over this time period. I was experiencing quite a few afternoon lulls, days of waking up unrefreshed, and no dreaming whatsoever.
Now, the afternoon lulls are rare. I may experience a handful every month as opposed to every weekday, which has allowed me to be that much more productive. I also wake up refreshed over 50% more than what I normally did, though I still wake up a couple hours earlier than expected from time to time.
Dreaming has been the most interesting change. In the last six months, I’ve dreamt more than I have in the last six years. I now have weeks at a time where I dream daily. To me, this indicates some improvements in REM sleep, which as you’ll see later, is where most of my sleep disturbances live.
Some of the biggest limiters here for me are environmental. I’m still consuming a fair amount of caffeine and stay up late when deadlines hit for work. I need to keep improving on both of these fronts.
Neck pain is something I’ve dealt with on and off over the years. The times I noticed my neck bothering me the most is with intense physical activity, computer work, and sitting at a restaurant.
With all these treatments (and vision therapy, stay tuned), there has been some improvement in this area. The largest change has been with physical activity. I am now able to play spikeball with my neck feeling pretty solid!
Computer work is slightly better, but the since the pandemic, my computer work has increased drastically. I can’t expect miracles here.
Lastly, going out to eat still leads to problems. If you are sitting on my left side, game over, I’m pretty sore at the end.
I’ve pretty much aced myofunctional therapy. I’m able to put my tongue into all the desired postures and can perform chewing and swallowing to standard.
The only thing I have difficulty with is consistently nailing the swallow. I notice I go back into old habits if I am rushed and not paying attention while I eat. That’s on me, yo!
I was not seeing any real improvements here until I used the Mute and then had the Vivaer procedure. With the latter intervention, it’s much easier to maintain nasal breathing during intense physical activity, especially hiking. When I used to hike, I’d get congested as all hell. That’s all gone now!
What’s also pretty cool is my nostrils actually expand when I breathe in now, as before they used to collapse.
Despite these treatments, I still feel a bit of resistance with nasal breathing at times, and I have to nasal saline rinse WAY more, as my nose must still be healing from the procedure.
The time I notice I have to work the hardest nasal breathing is actually in the morning right before I wake up for good. I’ll catch myself breathing fairly loud, so I still need to look
Sure, my feelings are important, but let’s check the data!
Let’s first look at my initial sleep study results. Here, we will look at the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI), which details the number of events I go sans breathing for 10 seconds or more; and the respiratory disturbance index (RDI), which totals any sleep arousals whatsoever.
Initial sleep study results
Here are my initial results, using the Watchpatone, an at-home sleep study:
Initial sleep study (1/22/20)
The total numbers aren’t too bad. An AHI of 4.2 is considered normal, meaning I do not have sleep apnea (YAY!). An RDI of 7.2 is considered mild, indicating slight upper airway resistance syndrome (UARS).
But the devil is in the details.
You’ll notice that both of these numbers elevate during REM sleep. The AHI of 8.0 indicates mild sleep apnea, and the 14.7 RDI indicates moderate airway resistance.
These values seem to correspond subjectively with what I feel, namely the minimal dreaming, grogginess, and even waking up around that portion of sleep.
As for other findings:
- Oxygen levels stayed within normal range throughout the study
- I slept mostly on my left side
- My sleep disturbances occurred mostly when I was on my back (worst) or my right side
- REM sleep occurred 23.71% of the night, and deep sleep was 20.74% of the night (both decent)
Now that we have a baseline, the moment of truth.
Did my sleep study improve?
Follow-up sleep study results
Let’s look at our objective indices first:
Follow-up Sleep Study (9/2/2021)
As you can see, the total numbers are fairly comparable and within the same ranges mentioned above; still in the mild to moderate range for most, which was an underwhelming finding. Is this because the treatment hasn’t been completed or not fully working? It’s still too early to tell.
Other notable findings include:
- I slept in more positions and more spread out timewise in these positions
- Sleep scores were better when I was on my right side
- 28.29% of the night was spent in REM, and 24.59% of the night was spent in deep sleep, an improvement.
What’s next in the treatment process
I still have about a year to go in the process. Next up, I’ll be getting braces (lame) and we will still be expanding the teeth out a bit more.
I’m uncertain as to what else I will do regarding nasal breathing. I will likely chat with Dr. Zaghi again to see if there is anything else worth trying to improve upon this even further, aside from giving my nose time to heal.
Aside from these treatments, I personally need to continue improving my sleep hygiene. I could definitely benefit from less caffeine, and limit how late I work on screens. These two changes alone will no doubt help improve my sleep.
Overall, I’ve been pleased with the symptom improvements thus far, though I know I still have a ways to go. I’m eager to get through the orthodontic process to see what happens.
- I’ve undergone palatal expansion for a little over a year, along with other procedures
- My teeth have moved significantly, making more room for my tongue
- Subjective measures have improved, but objective test results remain minimally changed
Do you have difficulty sleeping? What have you tried? Comment below!