Tongue-ties in babies does not lead to sleep issues directly. Instead, sleep problems are caused due to some complications that are a direct consequence of lip or tongue ties. In this article, we will try to establish a link between poor sleep and tongue-tie in infants. 

What is tongue-tie?

Tongue-tie or Ankyloglossia is a birth condition that impedes the tongue’s motion of your baby. A small piece of mass (called Frenum) is attached to the tongue and the mouth floor.

In most cases, it vanishes over time, but when it does not go away, the baby is diagnosed with tongue-tie. 

There are three major red flags (behavioral) that pediatricians often look for before they diagnose tongue-tie/lip tie in infants:

  • The baby is a bit colicky or has reflux.
  • The medication for reflux does not bear fruit.
  • The mother experiences pain, cracked nipples, and bleeding. 

Babies with tongue ties undergo some oral restriction, and they cannot move their tongue around much. Opposed to it, when the tongue does not experience any oral restriction, the baby will take a normal feed. 

Tongue ties classification 

These classes are not the indicators of severity; rather, they are categorized as per the Frenum position. 

  • Anterior Tongue Ties: Out of the four classes, Class 1 and 2 comprise of ATTs. The Frenum is mostly visible in this case, and anyone can ascertain its presence. You will find it near the tongue tip, but be very careful not to pull your baby’s tongue, causing him discomfort. 
  • Posterior Tongue Ties: The Class 3 and 4 tongue ties exhibit themselves a little towards the back of the tongue. The catch is that the PTTs are hard to find as they are not clearly visible. Only an expert doctor can locate the position of the Frenum in this case. 

Are tongue ties different from lip ties?

When the labial (lip) frenulum is conjoined somewhere between the gums, located near to the front teeth and under the top lip, that is the case of lip tie in infants. Lip tie or infant ties lead to irregular oral development. The majority of the issues are circled around the difficulty in eating, swallowing, and speaking. 

Major concerns associated with tongue ties in babies

Child specialists and other doctors enlist three major symptoms that might suggest your baby has a tied tongue. 

  • The baby cannot stick the tongue out comfortably. If you look closely, the child won’t be able to carry the tongue farther than the lower teeth. 
  • The tongue’s movement is very limited and won’t move from side to side. 
  • A notched tongue is also a sign of tongue ties. 

The baby is not able to latch or feed properly from the mother’s breasts or bottle. Any type of tongue-tie, Anterior or Posterior, leads to cessation in breastfeeding. 

More importantly, there are cases when babies experience an exacerbated breathing cycle. When breathing is affected, babies cannot enter the stages of deep sleep at night. 

Key Insight 1: Irregular breathing patterns are caused by restricted tongue movements that further impede sleep patterns. 

Since tongue ties in babies can also go unnoticed, they can lead to a dysmorphism between the tongue oral activities and facial structuring. 

Changes in the facial structure sometimes manifest themselves with incongruency in the upper airway. When the airway is blocked or collapses mid-sleep, the baby wakes up, leading to incomplete sleep. 

Key Insight 2: Research has also proven that tongue ties that go untreated can become a major cause of obstructive sleep apnea. 

tongue-tie in infants ; baby yawning

How does tongue-tie/lip-tie prevent baby sleep?

Eating solid food assists in the development of the jaw. It means your jaw will undergo regular exercise. Better exercise of the jaws leads to a stronger bottom structure and larger jaw space development. 

Stronger jaws mean that the baby won’t have to go through the wisdom tooth extraction or pay regular visits to the orthodontist. 

Now, if the jaw is underdeveloped, the tongue is bound to stay in the lower part of the throat. This reduces the airway space. 

Apart from the push-back tongue, the underdevelopment of the lower jaw also forces itself to take up space near the throat, further aggravating the precarious situation. The airway space reduces even more. 

All the factors point to incoherence in breathing patterns, which manifest into disturbances in the sleep cycle. And this goes in loops.

Key Insight 3: If the baby has to go through the same cycle every day, it becomes a habit. Habits formed at such a young age tend to stick and force parents to search for methods to help babies sleep

Final word

A tongue-tie is common in infants. Some babies will have no symptoms at all, while others may struggle with breastfeeding, sleeping properly, and can have speech difficulties when they grow up.

Luckily, with the help of a surgical cut called frenotomy, tongue ties in babies can easily be corrected. After this procedure, babies can start breastfeeding properly and sleeping more soundly at night.

If you have any concerns or questions, call your baby’s pediatrician.