Slow Dentistry | iSmile Studio

The important role of quality sleep for maintaining oral and general health ... and how to make sure you get enough of it!

Good quality sleep keeps us healthy. Ensuring we have ample sleep of satisfactory quality is one of the best things we can do for the health of our entire bodies, and also our minds.

Good quality sleep keeps us healthy. Ensuring we have ample sleep of satisfactory quality is one of the best things we can do for the health of our entire bodies, and also our minds.

Sleep is so vital to our physical wellbeing because it gives our bodies and minds the chance to repair and reenergise. A decent snooze impacts pretty much every cell in the body, and without it the impact could be severe. Too little sleep can leave us feeling low on energy, and can cause our mood, productivity and focus to suffer.

As we sleep, our bodies use less energy, which is instead goes towards rejuvenating all parts of the body, including the teeth and gums. When it comes to oral health, the proper amount of consistent, quality sleep can reduce bad breath, mouth ulcers, and instances of gum disease.

Conversely, prolonged lack of restorative sleep has been shown to cause oral health issues including bleeding gums, teeth grinding (or ‘bruxism’) and gum infections. This should come as no surprise, since poor sleep has long been known to cause increased inflammation, and inflammation of the gums is one of the most common symptoms of gum disease.

Gum disease (or ‘periodontitis’ to give it its proper title) refers to the development of pockets between the tooth and gum due to inflammation. These pockets allow the teeth to loosen and move, and can even lead to tooth loss.

On top of the oral-specific impacts, poor sleep can reduce our natural immune responses, because the body is not being given the restorative time it needs to rebuild tissues and ensure the immune system is functioning properly.

Sadly, we live in a world full of increasing stresses, and our rising anxiety levels can directly interfere with our ability to get a good night’s sleep.

Sleep hygiene tips

General sleep hygiene tips include sticking to a regular bedtime and wake-up routine, regular exercise throughout the day, following a healthy diet, avoiding clock watching as you try to nod off, taking a warm bath one to two hours before bed, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine, alcohol and tobacco, and ensuring a restful environment in the bedroom (including a comfortable mattress, lights out and a temperature of your pleasing!)

Laying in bed and ruminating over your lack of ability to fall asleep often serves to increase frustration and can make the situation worse. Sleep experts advise those who find themselves unable to fall asleep after a reasonable length of time to get out of bed and do something else for a short time, such as reading a book.

The most important (and possibly most difficult!) sleep hygiene advice to stick to is resisting the urge to nap whenever you’re feeling drowsy and it’s not your actual bedtime … even if you’re exhausted from a recent bad night’s sleep.

Why not medicate?

Sleeping pills are nothing more than a band aid solution. They will not help to address the underlying issue that is causing you to struggle with sleep, nor will they give you long-term release. Other negatives include feeling of drowsiness through the following day, as well as the risk of dependency – after a period of relying on medication, falling asleep without it often becomes even more difficult than it was before.

Of course, everybody is different when it comes to the tactics that work best as they chase the sometimes elusive seven to eight hours of slumber recommended by scientists. Below are a few extra ideas to try in the lead up to bed time.

Reduce your screen time

Scientists have successfully demonstrated how using devices such as phones, tablets and laptops immediately before going to bed can negatively impact sleep quality. As COVID-19 and the shift towards working from home has blurred the lines between work and personal screen time, it can often feel like a difficult thing to avoid.

The problem is, these types of device emit a blue light which has the unfortunate ability to inhibit the release of melatonin in the brain. Melatonin is the chemical that makes us feel sleepy, so the impact of the blue light is an important thing to keep in mind! It is therefore advised that, in order to give yourself the best chance of a full night of quality sleep, all such devices are avoided for a minimum of 30 minutes before you go to bed.

There may be times when having a quick look at your device right before you try to fall asleep is unavoidable. Fortunately, there is a step you can take in these instances to shield yourself from the sleep-impeding blue light … Apple devices such as MacBooks, iPads and iPhones all have an in-built filter known as ‘night shift’ which changes the colour of the screen in a way that limits the level of blue light emitted.

It’s all about the breathing

Breathing exercises can be an effective means of slowing a racing mind and relaxing your body as you attempt to nod off. Deep, mindful breathing has many benefits, but when it comes to sleep it can be a particularly useful tool.

Try taking a long, deep breath in through the nose, holding it for around five seconds, and then slowly exhaling through the mouth. Hopefully once you’ve repeated this process a few times you’ll start to notice your body become more relaxed. At the same time, by drawing your attention to the breath your overactive mind will be distracted from whatever it had been pre-occupied with before.

Consider a sound machine

We all find comfort and relaxation through immersing ourselves in different kinds of sounds. For some, it’s whale song. For others, the gentle lapping of waves on the beach can do the trick. Then there’s the sound of rain gently falling outside. Some people even find white noise to be an effective relaxation aid.

This notion stands in stark contrast to those annoyingly intrusive and unpredictable sounds that can interrupt your sleep, such as people yelling in the street, a dripping tap, a snoring partner, or even creaking floorboards. All of the above are prime candidates for keeping us awake and our best advice here would be to invest in some high-quality earplugs!

Consistent, gentle noises on the other hand can have a soothing effect. So whatever your sound of choice, recreating it each night with a sound machine could provide the right ambience to put you at ease, and create an environment conducive to gently lulling you off to sleep.

Keep your circadian rhythm in check

When we talk about circadian rhythm, we’re basically describing the internal body clock. It’s programmed to let us know when we should be awake, and when it’s time to start winding down and preparing for bedtime. A properly aligned circadian rhythm is crucial for enabling consistent, restorative sleep. Conversely, when out of sync it can cause you to feel wide awake when you should be asleep, and visa versa. Anybody who has ever experienced a case of jet lag should be able to relate!

Many of the tactics already outlined in this article can be used at bedtime to help keep your circadian rhythm in check, such as eliminating screen time, avoiding stimulants, and making time for relaxation. However, there are also steps you can take earlier in the day that could equally help regulate your circadian rhythm. Try getting out into the sunshine for up to 20 minutes each morning. This will give you a boost of energy and can help ensure your body knows it’s time to be awake.

Posted on 31 May 2021 by iSmile Studio Balwyn