The Importance of Proper Sleep and What a Dentist can Do to Help You.

     All of us need not only enough quantity of sleep but also quality.  There are different types of sleep such as light sleep when we nap, all the way to deep REM (rapid eye movement).  During a typical night’s sleep we vary how much deep sleep we get. It varies due to many variables.  Deep and uninterrupted sleep is the the sleep that allows us to be at our best.  

     By improving our sleep we allow our body to heal itself..  When we get proper sleep, our bodies produce more hormones, like growth hormone.  It also allows us to repair our bodies.  This can improve our overall healing, headaches, heart health, immune system deficiencies and other illnesses.  

     What is happening when our body doesn’t get proper sleep?  We get sick when our body sleep gets interrupted.  Proper sleep gets us feeling better.  When we are born we are all dealt a genetic deck that we have to make the best of.  While we sleep we strengthen every one of our genetic weaknesses. When we do not sleep properly the diseases we are susceptible to manifest themselves.  Medical Doctors have done studies that show when we get proper sleep there are drastic improvements in many of the patients illnesses resulting in less need for headache, heart and diabetic medicines.      

     What causes sleep to go bad?  One thing is lack of vitamin D3.  Vitamin  D is actually a hormone made when sunlight on your skin converts cholesterol to vitamin D.  Have you ever noticed the big push in the last decade or so of people getting diagnosed with sleep apnea?   Some theorize the invention of Air conditioning and people staying inside on a hot summer day when we were getting the proper exposure to summer UVB rays necessary.  We substitute this by getting vitamin D milk and taking vitamins with the recommended 1000 I.U. Vitamin D is also needed to use Vitamin B12.  

     What is obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) and what causes it?  Obstructive sleep apnea is a partial or complete collapse of the upper airway that causes muscles controlling the soft palate and tongue to relax.  When this happens a person experiences apneas, hypopneas and flow limitation.  Apnea is a stop of the airflow for more than 10 seconds.  Hypopnea is a decrease in airflow lasting more than 10 seconds with a 30% oxygen reduction in airflow and at least a 4% oxygen desaturation from baseline.  Flow limitation is a narrowing of the upper airway and an indication of an impending upper airway closure.  When the airway is totally blocked snoring is the obvious symptom.

     Signs and symptoms of sleep apnea include a lack of energy, high blood pressure, frequent nocturnal urination, depression, obesity, excessive daytime sleepiness, gastro esophageal reflux and snoring to name a few. Increased risk factors are but not limited to being male, obesity, diagnosed with high blood pressure, excessive use of alcohol or sedatives, smoking, family history of OSA, large neck circumference and endocrine or metabolic disorders.  Studies have shown that sleep apnea is a independent risk factor hypertension.  43% of patients with mild OSA and 69% of patients with severe OSA have hypertension. 65% of stroke patients have some form of sleep disordered breathing.  

    How can we treat OSA?  The gold standard is to treat it with CPAP therapy.  This stands for continuous positive airway pressure therapy.  A physician diagnoses OSA by having a sleep study done and prescribing a CPAP machine.  Not everyone can tolerate the mask, the noise it creates and how it limits your flexibility sleeping.  This bring us to what a dentist can do.  We as dentists can treat OSA with a mandibular repositioning device (MRD).   It is a custom made, adjustable oral appliance that maintains the lower jaw in a forward position during sleep.  This mechanical protrusion widens the space behind the tongue and reduces the vibration and physical obstruction to breathing and the tendency to snore.

   MRDs have many benefits in mild to moderate cases equal to a CPAP machine.  MRDs offer significant improvement of sleep apnea symptoms including daytime sleepiness, quality of life, blood pressure and cognitive performance.  Although CPAP remains the most efficacious treatment option, dentist today are offering effective oral appliance therapy for thousands of patients that often have a better adherence rate that CPAP.  If you don’t wear the CPAP it can’t help you.  Oral appliances have a better track record for long term use helping thousands of patients that can’t tolerate the CPAP.

     The recommendation I can make to you is if you have some of the signs and symptoms we discussed get checked out by your physician and if needed have a sleep study done.  If you are diagnosed with sleep apnea try the CPAP machine and make sure you are getting enough Vitamin D.  If you can’t tolerate the machine please try an oral appliance that is usually better tolerated and sometimes can be equally effective.  If you have any questions give us a call, I would love to discuss this further.