Don’t let poor sleep become a nightmare

03 July 2022
2 min read

Don’t let poor sleep become a nightmare

The importance of a good night’s sleep cannot be understated. Sleep provides our body with time to regulate core biological functions. It also allows us to unwind and feel refreshed when we wake up, giving us much-needed energy to perform capably. Unfortunately, modern life provides plenty of pressures that can make sleeping, well, a challenge.

There is much literature on the topic of sleep and health, but what about its effects on oral health? Sleep behaviours and oral health are often closely entwined, but many patients may not consider how their sleep behaviours play a role in the condition of their dental hygiene. Raising awareness of the importance of sleep on oral health (and all aspects of health) could help patients take steps to establish better habits at night-time. Additionally, communicating the importance of regular dental appointments can help in the identification and resolving of many disruptive sleep disorders.

The stages of sleep

There are two primary categories of sleep: non-rapid eye movement (NREM), which is comprised of four stages, and rapid eye movement (REM). Stage one is a light sleep; muscle activity slows and individuals can be easily awoken. At stage two, our brain waves become slower and our eye movements cease. In stages three and four, we are in the very deep phases of sleep, with no eye movement or muscle activity. When we move into REM sleep, our heart rate increases and breathing becomes more irregular; it is thought that this phase occupies 20-25 per cent of night-time sleep in healthy human adults. A deep sleep provides ample benefits to our mind and body; it is important for cognitive function and memory, in addition to our mood and energy. A lack of sleep can be detrimental to our health; even one night of total sleep deprivation can affect the way the brain functions.

The most common sleep disorders include insomnia, narcolepsy, restless leg syndrome and sleep apnoea. These conditions can cause significant disruption to a sleep routine, often resulting in poor sleep behaviours for those afflicted.

With around 67 per cent of UK adults suffering from disrupted sleep and 23 per cent managing no more than five hours a night, sleep deprivation is certainly a pressing issue for healthcare providers. Many people who notice their dental health deteriorating may not have considered that a sleep disorder is the cause. However, research has noted the integral role that dental professionals play in the identification of sleep disorders in patients.