By Michael Heffernan

The Importance of Sleep

The importance of sleep has long been known as it gives our bodies and minds time to rest and recuperate. Sleep is one of the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle, along with good nutrition and exercise. At different stages of life, it’s recommended that we need different amounts of sleep, but at any stage, we spend half to a third of our time asleep. So, let’s investigate what health and, in particular, oral health effects occur when we are sleeping. 

How much sleep do we need?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, children 6-12 years old should get 9-12 hours of sleep, with younger children getting more sleep, including naps. As we grow to adolescence, there’s a shift with a preference for a late-night bedtime and consequently sleeping until later in the morning. Teenagers 13-18 years old are recommended to get 8-10 hours of sleep. As we reach adulthood, it’s recommended to have 7 or more hours of sleep per night. 

However, the quantity of sleep is not everything, it needs to be good quality too! 

Without good quantity and quality of sleep, there are associated health risks of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke, and mental health concerns. Furthermore, a lack of sleep has been associated with poorer immune function, increased likelihood of accidents, and errors of judgment. 

Women have been found to get poorer quality sleep then men. The quality of sleep for women can be compromised by factors such as nursing children, which can lead to difficulty in breaking bad sleeping habits. Health conditions like polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are linked with sleeping disorders like sleep apnoea. The combination of these health concerns results in a greater risk of Type 2 Diabetes due to insulin resistance and half of the women with PCOS develop type 2 diabetes by the age of 40. Other causes are depression, illness, medication and hormonal changes in pregnancy, menopause, and menstruation. Finally sharing a bed with someone with a sleeping disorder can disrupt a partner’s sleep too!

For men, sleep quality is more commonly diminished by sleep-related breathing disorders like snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea. 

Some of the sleep-related disorders that can affect our oral health in particular are:

·      Snoring

·      Sleep Apnoea

·      Bruxism

·      Insomnia or sleep disturbance

·      Shift work

·      Night snacking

What can naturally help us sleep?

Removal of stimulants before bedtime. This means caffeine, screens, and sugar. Have a soothing cup of chamomile tea and read a book. Think of the lead-up to bedtime as a peaceful space and fill it with nourishing activities. Yoga or meditation or even just some gentle stretching can really help. Also, exercise during the day and setting the body clock a regular time to sleep and wake up is beneficial. If you are losing sleep because of anxiety or any other health concerns, speak to a doctor and get the help you need. 

Just a reminder...

Dr. Heffs Remarkable Mints contain natural ingredients and are caffeine-free and sugar-free. One of the main ingredients is green tea extract that is decaffeinated as this helps to protect the collagen that makes up your teeth and is also antibacterial. Since Dr. Heff’s Remarkable Mints contain de-caffeinated green tea, you still get the benefits of polyphenols, but without harming your sleep, even if you need to use a mint at night to help with a dry mouth or to help sooth a cough. 

They are ideal for people that suffer from dry mouth as they help to stimulate saliva and the mint leaves the mouth feeling fresh and clean. They are scientifically tested by international dental schools, recommended by dentists, and endorsed by Toothfriendly International. 

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Best wishes,

Dr. Mike Heffernan