A bad night’s sleep is a rough experience to deal with. It’ll have you feeling groggy and grumpy and all out of sorts for days.
Consistently poor quality sleep is another beast, entirely. It will do more than leave you feeling like less of a human; it’ll mess up your health, and considerably. Studies have indicated that sleep deprivation not only impacts your mood and everyday performance (think: memory function, productivity and decision-making skills), but it can lead to serious health problems including increased blood pressure, mental health struggles and increased inflammation, too.
What’s behind all this bad sleep?
Most of the time, we connect poor sleep quality with things like stress and an overloaded mind. This certainly isn’t off the mark. But what we may be overlooking somewhat is the connection between our oral health and sleep quality.
As Dr Fred Calavassy, BDS, FICD, FPFA (Clinical Director and Clinical Advisory Board Chair at Maven Dental Group) highlighted to me over email, poor oral health can cause an incredibly long list of health problems if not addressed. Perhaps most significant are those related to difficulties breathing.
He explained that in some cases, poor oral health can cause serious respiratory issues due to a build-up of harmful bacteria in the mouth. If you breathe through your mouth as you sleep, Dr Calavassy shared that:
“Certain bacteria in the oral cavity can be introduced into the lungs, causing pneumonia and other respiratory diseases,” he said.
This can obviously lead to serious health problems (like pneumonia, as mentioned), as well as generally affecting your ability to breathe clearly.
An inability to breathe with easy is (understandably) an issue for many reasons, but it’s also one of the most common reasons for disruptions to the sleep cycle. And with regular enough interruptions, comes serious levels of fatigue.
“Frequent disturbances to sleep such as loud snoring, gasping for air and even choking throughout the night may be signs of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA),” Dr Calavassy explained.
“Obstructive sleep apnoea occurs when the tissues in your throat, like your tongue and soft palate, temporarily relax and partially or even completely block the airway when you are asleep.”
He explained that OSA can be linked to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes and reflux.
It’s also bad news for your mouth. Regular snoring and the dry mouth that can come from that accelerates your chances of decay and gum disease.
Another common situation here is that your disrupted sleep is a result of teeth grinding. Dr Calavassy explained that:
“Also known as ‘Bruxism’, grinding your teeth throughout the night can lead to disrupted sleep just like sleep apnoea or, in fact, may be a symptom of sleep apnoea. Bruxism usually occurs in the early stages of sleep, delaying REM sleep and even causing you to wake up before you enter the deeper sleep cycle.”
Not only does this stuff up your sleep at night (the grinding itself may wake you, but so too could discomfort in your jaw), but it can also cause some pretty nasty issues for your teeth; leading to excessive tooth wear. Key symptoms of this condition are a sore jaw in the morning and tooth sensitivity.
What can I do to fix it?
So, now that you’re aware your mouth may be messing up your 40 winks, what should you do?
The first thing you can start with is ensuring your dental care is in primo condition. Brush twice a day, and floss daily (but actually). It’s also key that you avoid foods and drinks that cause damage to your teeth (I’m looking at you, sugar). And if you’re worried that you may be suffering from one of the above-mentioned conditions, make an appointment with your dentist to see how best to treat it.
This article has been updated since its original publish date.
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