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Are You Cheating Sleep?

Why we need so much sleep By Dr. Rhonda R. Savage, DDS, Uptown Dental

Honestly, think about what you could accomplish if you didn't need to take time to eat or sleep! When I was in college, a young colleague said, "I only have enough time for one meal a day! Where do you expect me to get time to eat more?" I thought, "Wow! Eating is pretty important!"

All that aside, he was quite slim. I didn't ask him about his possible snacking habits. Hey, did you know that snacking can lead to more cavities? But let's get back to the topic of sleep and why sleep, or lack of it, might be of concern to your dentist.

Did you know that if you snore, you can be more prone to gum disease? Sleeping well is rejuvenating. It's when your body heals and repairs itself. If you have periodontal disease (disease of the gum and bone around your teeth), you can't heal well from the inflammation. You're also more prone to an increase in cavities. Dry mouth, stickier plaque, more cavities! Do you ever wake up at night with a dry mouth?

As mammals, we live and die based on circadian rhythms. Our body is set to sleep and wake on a 24-hour cycle. The timing is controlled by the brain. You can fight it, but we need sleep to survive. Sadly, there have been many articles in the news regarding abnormal behavior due to lack of sleep, which can include suicide, insanity and serious depressive behaviors. Did you know that if you live to be 90 years of age, you'd have slept 32 years of your life? Our sleep cycles change as we age. Younger people need much more sleep. Older patients experience much lighter sleep, less REM sleep and tend to nap during the day.

As dentists, we get concerned for patients who don't sleep well due to other causes, not the circadian rhythm. When you relax at night, the tongue can fall back against the back of your throat. This can cause obstructive sleep apnea, affecting your oxygen intake at night. Why does this happen?

• Age

• Neck size

Fat deposition

• Airway resistance syndrome

• Size of the tongue

• Shape of your palate and dental arch

• Tonsils or adenoids

• Genetics: family predisposition

• Medication use

• Menopause

I personally don't like being told that as I get older, menopause can affect my sleep. You probably also don't want to know that your tongue can get fatter. Nothing stays the same: muscle tone, sagging throats. Really? What can you do? Throat lifts are external only. While they look good (and I'd do it too!), it won't help you sleep. Men, you've always been at more risk for sleep apnea. Ask your physician about sleep if you're feeling tired during the day or if your spouse complains about his or her quality of sleep.

Come into see me and visit our website at You have options. We can refer you to a board-certified sleep physician, decrease cavities, improve gum/bone health and help you sleep better!

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