According to the CDC (US Center for Disease Control), thirty percent of American adults don’t get enough sleep. Lack of sleep has joined obesity and smoking as a major risk factor for many diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer’s, and gum disease. We may not realize that our teeth, jaws and throat are interrupting our sleep and leaving us tired during the day.
Jaw Activity Affects Sleep
One of the most common dental problems is teeth grinding or clenching during sleep. The stress of the day continues during our sleep hours, and our jaws act it out. Grinding and clenching can result in jaw pain in the morning. Eventually the grinding wears away tooth enamel, exposing the tooth to decay and root infection. TMJ can also develop. TMJ is a condition which results from pressure on misaligned jaws and can be very painful. Many people who suffer from TMJ have experienced headaches, ear ringing, and muscle tension in the head, neck and shoulders for years. Jaw misalignment, grinding and clenching can be treated, often without drugs or surgery.
* Night guards can help intervene early, reducing symptoms of TMJ
* Invisalign, and similar orthodontic treatments can help realign the bite for better function
* Restorative dentistry can repair teeth damaged from TMJ.
Difficulty Breathing During Sleep A more serious health hazard can result from improper breathing during sleep, or sleep apnea. This condition is hard to self diagnose, as we often don’t know that we have stopped breathing. Our brain, heart and lungs work to compensate for the lack of oxygen. Snoring may wake us up on occasion, but the best indicator is feeling “not rested” in the morning.
Some of the contributing factors that create difficulty breathing during sleep are:
* Deviated septum (broken nose)
* Allergies or sinus congestion causing labored mouth breathing
* Tongue creating poor swallowing patterns that block breathing
* Restricted airway as a result of excess body weight
Sleep apnea is increasingly common. Up to twenty percent of adult women and thirty percent of adult men have some difficulty breathing during sleep*. This can be assessed and diagnosed by your dentist or a medical sleep clinic. Mild to moderate apnea can often be treated using a dental appliance which will position the jaw to allow for better breathing during sleep. More severe cases of sleep apnea often require use of a CPAP device to provide sufficient oxygen and assist breathing during sleep.
Ways to Improve Sleep Quality
Here are several tips that sleep experts recommend for improving the quality of our sleep.
* Find a relaxing routine before bed. This might include reading, meditating, prayer, herbal tea, deep breathing, taking a bath, or journaling.
* Power down phones and other blue screen devices 1-2 hours before bed. The blue light emitted by our devices inhibits the natural production of melatonin which keeps us asleep.
* Sleep in a cool, quiet, dark environment, and plan for seven or more hours of sleep each night. Whitmore Dental provides dental treatments for sleep disrupting issues. Contact us for an evaluation if you experience teeth grinding or jaw clenching in your sleep, snoring problems, or you suspect sleep apnea is leaving you tired all day.