Although you may not associate a Macomb County dental office with helping you get a better night’s sleep, the two are definitely interconnected. The shape of your mouth and position of your jaws have much to do with efficient oxygen intake, especially during sleep while in a reclined position.
Breathing – air flow into the body – has much to do with our ability to get sound sleep. People who snore loudly and occasionally “gasp” for breath may seem to be in deep sleep. However, they are actually experiencing disrupted sleep.
We all know how it feels after an occasional night of insufficient sleep. We feel fatigued, less alert, and long for a nap. For people who snore heavily or have sleep apnea (pauses in breathing during sleep), every day can seem like they are barely awake, but not really wanting to be.
Research now knows that inadequate sleep does much more than drag you down during the day. It has been shown to increase your risk for obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and even premature death. For drivers who have sleep apnea, they are said to be more dangerous than drunk drivers.
Disrupted sleep can occur from surprising sources. For example, eating close to bedtime can make falling asleep (and staying asleep) more challenging. Reclining on a full stomach can also lead to uncomfortable heartburn during the night. Consuming late-day caffeinated beverages, (coffee, tea, and cola) interferes with a chemical in the brain that promotes sleep. Too, alcohol consumed within four hours of bedtime can be disruptive to sleep.
Age can also be a factor. As adults get older, many start to awaken earlier. This may be due to a shift in the aging body’s circadian rhythm (its internal clock). Napping in the afternoon can make sleeping for a full night less likely as well.
Other interferences to sound sleep can be medications. These include antidepressants, blood pressure medications, some cold remedies and corticosteroids (for inflammation or asthma).
If sleep apnea is the problem, the pauses in breathing at night deprive your brain and heart of the oxygen it needs – night after night. This takes a toll on the body’s efficient functioning levels during the day. Over time, it can contribute to serious (and even deadly) health problems.
The term “sleep apnea” typically conjurs up the image of a face-covering mask with a hose attached. These devices help force air into airway passages during sleep. Yet, some people feel they are bulky, noisy, confining in bed, and even embarrassing.
Although some people dread having to wear a CPAP device during sleep to overcome this, our Shelby Township dental office has advanced training and experience in fitting patients with custom-made sleep appliances. These are small and do not interfere with sleep. They are FDA approved for people with mild to moderate sleep apnea.
For people who are deterred by having to go to a sleep center for a study, at-home studies can be helpful in establishing your level of sleep apnea. These are sent right to your home and shipped back easily. We also utilize Cone Beam 3D imaging. These images enable us to create the most comfortable, yet effective, devices possible. This imaging is right in our dental office and is a very low dose radiation scan.
As a neuromuscular dentist who has extensive training in the interactive structures connected to the mouth, we’ve helped hundreds of patients overcome the problems associated with sleep apnea. And, we are happy to share the following beneficial tips to getting a good night’s sleep – for all people!
1. Sleep on your side. This is the most important piece of advice on this page. It helps keep your airway open and reduces your risk for heartburn and acid reflux.
2. Elevate the head of your bed about 6-8 inches. The easiest way to achieve this is to place several pillows between the box spring and the mattress, positioned under the mattress at the head of the bed. Note that piling up more than 2 pillows to lay your head on does not work as well as it might lead to neck issues & you can easily roll off of them.
3. Use Breathe Right nasal strips. Be sure to get your size as they come in small or large. Also, get the clear ones for sensitive skin. Avoid generic brands and the advanced versions. Watch the video on Breathe Right’s website that shows how it works and how to use it.
4. Use nasal spray every night right before bed. Be sure to keep your nose clear by blowing your nose first. Inhaling steam can loosen congestion so a hot shower before bed would help. As far as nasal sprays, we get the best feedback about Flonase (available over the counter).
5. Keep your bedroom dark. Make sure your room is perfectly dark while you’re sleeping. You can use a mask over your eyes. Be sure to dim lights for the hour or two leading up to sleep time. Do not use any electronics with a screen within two hours of bedtime; it messes with melatonin levels. Speaking of bedtime, you should avoid laying down within 30 minutes of food as that increases your risk of heartburn.
6. Keep your bedroom cool. Studies show that the ideal temperature for sleep is 65 degrees. A programmable thermostat can be set to drop the temperature down to that level late into the night and back up to more comfortable levels in the morning.
7. Keep the air clean and at the right humidity. An air cleaner helps if your furnace system is old. Otherwise, change the air filter on your furnace every month and use one that has a high filtration effect. Use a humidifier in the winter if your house is really dry. The humidity in your room should be between 30 & 50%.
8. Use your oral sleep appliance EVERY NIGHT. It’s important that your airway gets used to that open path from the back of your throat down to your lungs. Regular nightly use makes sure it stays open.
9. Wake up at the same time each day.