Gravitational forces, negative pressure and facial structure in the genesis of airway dysfunction during sleep: a review of the paradigm

Howard D. Stupak, Steven Y. Park

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

3 Scopus citations


The recent and distant literature has extensive discussion of how sleep apnea, adeno-tonsillar growth, and facial structural deformity are related. Conventionally, the order of cause and effect is as follows: (1) Inflammatory/infectious process→tonsillar/adenoid tissue growth→(2) airway obstruction and mouth breathing/Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)→(3) altered facial structure (adenoid facies). Using this same reasoning, adenotonsillectomy is the first line of treatment in the prevention of structural abnormalities. However, through a lifetime of clinical research Christian Guilleminault and his colleagues have challenged this paradigm. Through multiple articles and studies, Guilleminault et al., teach that even slight (subclinical) facial structure/muscle tone variations may be the inciting event triggering mouth-breathing and the eventual adenotonsillar growth in most patients. Essentially, this is the reverse of the conventional paradigms. Initial treatments therefore shift from simplified removal of inflammatory tissue to limiting mouth-breathing via musculo-skeletal modification. The purpose of this paper is to synthesize and analyze the recent (and distant) relevant literature to provide support for, and provide a potential anatomic mechanism for Guilleminault et al.'s paradigm-questioning clinical observations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)125-132
Number of pages8
JournalSleep Medicine
StatePublished - Nov 1 2018



  • Adeno-tonsillary hypertrophy
  • Facial structure
  • Mouth-breathing
  • Nasal obstruction
  • Nasal valve
  • Obstructive sleep apnea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

Cite this