Glorious sleep. We love it when we get eight hours of it (though this is becoming rare for most). Are you the kind that groans when the alarm goes off, clumsily hitting the snooze button because it feels like only ten minutes ago your head hit the pillow? Or are you of the kind that sleeps solidly and wakes up ready to conquer the world?! If you identify more with the former group - waking up sleep-deprived, and the only thing coaxing you out of bed is the idea that in a few minutes you can down a cup of coffee that is going to give you that needed jolt to start the day! Well, I’m here to tell you that while this may be common it is not normal.
There are many reasons why you may not be getting a good night’s sleep. One reason that may not have occurred to you, is that there may be a link between the quality of your sleep and the condition of your mouth and teeth. Here are just some ways your teeth could be the culprit of not enough Zz’s when the lights go out.
Teeth grinding and clenching of the jaw (sometimes referred to as Bruxism) can occur unconsciously as we sleep. There are many reasons for teeth grinding, such as TMJ disorder, stress and/or tension in the surrounding muscles of the jaw, neck, and shoulders, to name just a few. Continuous teeth grinding or jaw clenching can result in the flattening of teeth and the wearing down of tooth enamel, it can also lead to exposing the tooth's root. How can this interrupt sleep?
Basically, the body goes through five sleep cycles every 90 minutes. Across these 5 stages, we go from very light sleep (stage 1) to very deep sleep (stage 4), then lastly to REM (rapid eye movement stage) aka our “dreaming-time” stage. Stage 4 of this cycle is where our body “should” completely relax. The body rebuilds muscle and tissue, recharges cells, and preps us for the day ahead. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? Teeth grinding can interfere with this stage of sleep, not allowing the body to do its restorative work. Therefore when that dreaded alarm clock blares, you feel like you are just as tired (if not more so) than when your head hit the pillow.
Sleep apnea is a disorder that can temporarily cause a person to lose the ability to breathe. The person will wake up briefly to restore breathing. These waking moments are brief in duration (a few seconds at most) but can have a dramatic effect on a person's health by interrupting their precious sleep cycle. Crowded teeth and jaw misalignment can obstruct airways and stifle breathing during sleep leading to the side-effect of sleep apnea.
Gaps in your teeth may indicate that you have a tongue thrust. Tongue thrust refers to the tongue pressing up against the teeth or between them while swallowing. We swallow thousands of times a day, in the case of tongue thrusters, the tongue movesinappropriately to the sides, rather than forward to the teeth. This then leads to gaps and misalignment of the teeth.Improper tongue positioning can also occur while the tongue is at rest, in which case it may lie too far forward forcing the person to breathe through their mouth. This obstruction to breathing along with misalignment of teeth can lead to constant interruptions of sleep during the night.
If you feel you fall into one of the categories above, and think your mouth/teeth are causing you a bad night's sleep, what can be done to help you? Regular visits to the dentist will help monitor any signs of teeth grinding or jaw clenching. If a pattern is perceived by your dentist then he can recommend a course of action for you. Remember too, that teeth grinding can be a side-effect of muscular tension or excessive worrying, so look at the complete picture to ensure you can break the habit for good.
If you feel you suffer from sleep apnea, a visit to your local GP can help put you on the right path. He may suggest a sleep clinic, which will monitor your sleep patterns and give you a more rounded picture of your sleep cycle to best find out the cause of your sleep issues. If obstructions to your breathing pathway, such as those caused by jaw misalignment, crowded teeth, or tongue thrust, are shown to be the cause of your sleep apnea, then a referral to an orthodontist or orofacial myologist may be advised.
Here we have looked at how issues with your teeth can be the reason for a less than perfect nights sleep. Getting a good night's rest is absolutely vital to our lives and our overall health. So don’t endure one more sleepless night, go and see your local dentist today. The sooner you do the sooner you can get to that glorious feeling of uninterrupted “Zz’s” as you wander off into dreamland.