A good night's sleep is important for overall health and wellbeing. Sleeping disorders can cause tiredness and affect concentration during the day, as well as increasing health risks.
If you have trouble sleeping, you snore, or you have other symptoms that could be caused by a sleep disorder, your dentist might be able to help or refer you to someone who can.
What are your symptoms?
Signs and symptoms of sleep disorders can vary. People may find it difficult to fall asleep (insomnia), fall asleep during the day (narcolepsy) or disturb other people in the home by snoring loudly. Talking to a health professional about your experiences could help them to diagnose the problem and recommend effective treatments.
If you snore loudly, wake up choking, gasping or snorting in the night, often feel tired and lethargic during the day or you have other symptoms of a disturbed sleep, it's possible you might have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). This is thought to affect up to 25% of Australian men and 9% of women, and it can potentially have a serious impact on health if it's left untreated.
What causes sleep disorders?
Short-term sleep disorders such as temporary insomnia may be caused by changes in routine, stress, health problems or consuming stimulants such as caffeine. Longer-term sleep problems can be more complex and may sometimes have a physical cause.
Obstructive sleep apnoea can occur when the airways become temporarily blocked during sleep. This is more likely to happen if people are overweight, have a large neck, tight throat or other abnormalities that increase the risk of obstructions.
The risk factor for OSA is also higher if you smoke, drink excessive alcohol or take certain medications such as sedatives. It's more commonly experienced by older people, but it can affect people of all ages including children.
Can sleep disorders affect your health?
Sleep disorders that cause daytime tiredness or affect concentration can increase the risk of being involved in motor vehicle accidents and other incidents.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is linked to a higher risk of obesity and a range of health problems including high blood pressure, stroke and heart problems, cognitive problems, mood disorders, type-2 diabetes and erectile dysfunction.
If you're concerned about how your quality of sleep may be affecting your health or quality of life, you should talk to your doctor, dentist or other health professional. Depending on your situation, they may be able to suggest techniques, treatments or medications to help improve your sleep, or may refer you to a specialist.
How can a dentist help?
If you think you might have the symptoms of OSA, a dentist may be able to diagnose the condition by examining your mouth and throat. They may also ask you to complete a sleep health questionnaire to help them better understand your symptoms. If your condition is particularly severe, they may also recommend a sleep study so your symptoms can be monitored by a sleep physician.
If you are diagnosed with sleep apnoea or another condition, your dentist may recommend treatments or refer you to another professional. Depending on what's causing your OSA, the symptoms you have and their severity, these treatments may include: 
- changing your sleep posture to improve airflow
- establishing a regular sleeping routine
- lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking, drinking less alcohol and trying to lose weight
- trying to reduce stress and worry in your life, which may involve therapy
- wearing a custom-made oral appliance to keep the airways open during sleep
For more severe cases, a dentist or sleep physician may recommend Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) to feed air into the lungs and keep the airways open, or surgery.
Talk to a dentist in Brisbane CBD
If you think you might have a sleep disorder or oral health problem and you want to speak to a professional, get in touch with our team at Face Value Dental.
Call our Brisbane dentists on 07 3221 0677 or contact us online.
 Healthdirect. Sleep disorders [Online] 2016 [Accessed September 2018] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sleep-disorders
 Snore Australia. Obstructive sleep apnoea [Online] 2010 [Accessed September 2018] Available from: http://www.snoreaustralia.com.au/obstructive-sleep-apnoea.php