The length and quality of your sleep are extremely important to your physical health. During sleep, your body creates hormones and vital nutrients that balance the systems and support homeostasis. Sleep also allows your body to rejuvenate and relax.

Most experts note that the average person needs a minimum of 5 sleep cycles per night with each cycle being 90 minutes in length. Different functions of the body are supported during different phases of the sleep cycles and interruption of these cycles is detrimental to health and well being.

Lack of good sleep causes both physical and mental manifestations such as weight gain, depression, headaches, lack of concentration, poor decision making, hormonal imbalance, and inability to handle stress. It impacts learning and memory, causes drowsiness, lowers immunity, and can affect cardiovascular health.

Sleep deprivation may be psychological, due to mental stress, or physiological. The physiological cause of sleep deprivation is called an airway obstruction and is referred to as Sleep-disordered breathing (SDB). Everyone is at risk for this condition, and snoring is a clue that there may be a problem. It is estimated that 20% of adults are affected by sleep apnea, and 85% of those affected are undiagnosed. The most severe form, obstructive sleep apnea, is often undiagnosed and can be fatal if not treated.

The National Institutes of Health defines sleep apnea as “a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. When your breathing pauses or becomes shallow, you’ll often move out of deep sleep and into light sleep. As a result, the quality of your sleep is poor, which makes you tired during the day. Sleep apnea is a leading cause of excessive daytime sleepiness.”

If you experience any of the following, you may have SDB:

  • feeling irritable or sleepy during the day;
  • feeling unrested upon awakening;
  • difficulty staying awake when watching television or reading;
  • difficulty with focus or concentration;
  • being told by others that you look tired;
  • becoming overly emotional; and
  • falling asleep or feeling very tired while driving or needing a nap daily.

Evaluating the severity of sleep deprivation can be done using home sleep test technology, or via testing facilities under the direction of board certified sleep doctors. Treatment plans are customized to individuals and can range from simply adjusting sleep position, to apply continuous positive airway pressure via a CPAP machine. Other treatment options include the insertion of nasal values and the creation of a dental appliance to open the air ways.

When snoring, sleep disturbances and sleep apnea are no longer a problem, the patient experiences a better quality of life and an overall improvement in health due to the increased oxygen saturation.

If you feel you may suffer from sleep apnea, seek the advice of a qualified professional.

Dr. Dollins is a biological dentist specializing in holistic, neuromuscular and sleep dentistry. She is owner of Bel Villaggio Dental in Temecula and can be reached at (951) 296.2080.

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