My nurse practitioner Laura Amedro and I met with local orthodontist Al Bishop yesterday. Sleep problems are more common at high altitude, and providers caring for children know that poor sleep can cause difficulties with learning and behavior, including ADHD. Dr. Bishop listed ten diseases made worse by poor sleep, including obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression and others.
How does this tie in with the person who provides braces? Dr. Bishop showed us photos of mouths and teeth that can cause airway constriction. Expanders inserted inside the mouth (no more “head gear”) correct these problems but are more effective when started earlier. Some children can be identified and treated as early as 7 years.
Dr. Bishop has offices in Edwards and Summit County, so he is familiar with altitude issues. Night time oximetry is the recommended screening test for airway problems. This has to be ordered by a health care provider such as Laura or myself.
Most people will agree they do not sleep as well at high altitude, especially over 9000 ft/2500 m. In sleep, the drive to breathe is blunted, which may lower the oxygen and raise carbon dioxide in the blood. This causes high blood pressure in some adults and children but what else does it cause? Pediatric pulmonologist and sleep specialist Ann Halbower wonders if it effects growth and development in children. Family practice physician Lisa Zwerdlinger has many years of experience treating patients in Leadville and sometimes has babies that need oxygen for a year to gain weight.
A study published in the Archives of Diseases of Children in February this year analyzed previously published studies of oxygen levels in awake children at altitudes between sea level and 4000 meters, including Summit County. We are in the early phase of formulating a study on night time oxygen levels at various ages. since it takes years for research to be completed we recommend anyone with health issues that may be related to altitude to have a sleep study. this is very simple: a finger clip connected to a wrist band where data is collected.