If you don't get the recommended amount of sleep each night and often feel tired during the day, you're not alone. Around 4 in 10 Australians say they don't get enough sleep. Whether it's due to poor sleeping habits or a sleep disorder, sleep deprivation can affect your health and wellbeing in many ways.
If you want to improve your sleep, your doctor or dentist may be able to offer suggestions to help you. If your sleep problem is related to an underlying condition, such as obstructive sleep apnoea or bruxism, your dentist can discuss appropriate treatments.
How much sleep do I need?
Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night, but busy lifestyles and distractions cut into sleeping hours for many people. Babies, children and teenagers whose bodies are still developing can benefit from even more sleep.
Sleep is important for the body and mind to function normally and to avoid the health risks associated with sleep deprivation. Good quality sleep can improve alertness, memory and learning ability for all ages.
How can a bad sleep affect health?
If you don't get the restful sleep your body needs, or your sleep is frequently disturbed, you could feel fatigued and drowsy during the day. Losing sleep may also affect your ability to concentrate at work or in school and slow down reaction times, which can be dangerous when driving or operating machinery.
Regular sleep problems are also associated with an increased risk of health problems, including cardiovascular (heart) disease, high blood pressure, obesity and type 2 diabetes, as well as mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.
What are common sleep disorders?
If you regularly have trouble sleeping, this could be caused by an underlying problem. Some of the most common sleep disorders are insomnia and snoring or sleep apnoea.
Around 1 in 3 Australians experience insomnia at some point in their lives. People with insomnia may find it hard to fall asleep, wake up frequently in the night or wake up too early in the morning. Insomnia is usually short term, but around 1 in 20 cases need professional care.
Insomnia can have many different causes. Some of these may be managed, such as changing your sleep habits or avoiding stimulating substances, but it can also be an effect of stress or certain medical or mental health conditions. Insomnia doesn't always have an obvious cause.
Snoring and sleep apnoea
Around 1 in 4 men and 1 in 3 women snore. Snoring can cause sleep disturbances for the snorer and other people around them, and loud snoring with breathing interruptions can be a symptom of obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA).
Sleep apnoea happens when the airways are blocked during sleep. This can cause breathing to stop for a number of seconds, before the brain sends a signal to wake up the body, often accompanied by choking or gasping. Sleep apnoea ranges from mild to severe, with some people's sleep being interrupted hundreds of times every night.
Obstructive sleep apnoea is more likely if you're overweight or have large tonsils or other tissues in your nose or throat that can block the airways more easily. Your dentist may be able to help you with sleep apnoea treatments.
Teeth grinding (bruxism)
Grinding or clenching your teeth during sleep (known as bruxism) can also cause sleep disturbances, as well as pain in the mouth, jaws and head and damage to teeth over time.
Teeth grinding may be caused by psychological issues, such as anxiety or stress, or a physical problem, such as an uneven bite, missing teeth or certain health conditions.
How to improve your sleep
If you want to get a good night's sleep and lower your health risks, you should start by fixing any bad bedtime habits you might have. If your sleep problem may be related to an underlying condition, make an appointment with your doctor or dentist for an evaluation and to discuss possible treatments.
Improve your sleeping habits
Insomnia can sometimes be prevented by making changes to your bedtime routine and sleep hygiene. This could include:
- Going to bed and planning to wake up at the same time each day to get used to the routine
- Only going to bed when you feel tired
- Taking time to relax before bed
- Choosing the right type of mattress and pillow for your sleep posture
- Making your bedroom as comfortable and quiet as possible
To improve your chance of a good night's sleep, try to avoid:
- Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine, especially in the evening
- Screen use up to 1 hour before sleep
- Napping during the day, especially in the evening
- Sleeping tablets, especially for regular use as they can become addictive
Sleep apnoea treatment
Snoring problems and sleep apnoea may be diagnosed by a doctor or dentist with the relevant experience, or you may be referred to a sleep specialist. Depending on how severe your symptoms are, snoring and sleep apnoea treatments may include making lifestyle changes, using a device at night or surgery.
Lifestyle changes to help prevent sleep apnoea include:
- Sleeping on your side instead of your back
- Losing weight if you're overweight
- Avoiding smoking, stimulants and sleeping tablets
Treatments to help with sleep apnoea include:
- Nasal decongestant sprays for a blocked nose
- An oral appliance designed by your dentist to hold your throat open during sleep
- Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy, which involves breathing through a mask during sleep
- Surgery to remove loose or oversized tissues blocking the nose or throat
If you want to stop grinding your teeth, your dentist may recommend using an oral appliance at night to prevent your teeth from touching, although this may not make the problem go away.
If your condition is caused by an uneven biting surface, this may be corrected with dental treatments to straighten, rebuild or replace teeth. If you need help managing anxiety or stress, your dentist can refer you to an appropriately qualified professional.
Bruxism and sleep apnoea treatment in Brisbane CBD
If you think that you or a loved one might have sleep apnoea, bruxism or another sleep disorder, Face Value Dental may be able to help. Working with Sleep Studies Australia, our dentists in Brisbane can develop a personalised treatment plan with the aim of helping you to sleep more soundly.
Healthdirect. Sleep [Online] 2018 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sleep
Healthdirect. Insomnia [Online] 2019 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/insomnia
Healthdirect. Sleep apnoea [Online] 2017 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/sleep-apnoea
Healthdirect. Teeth grinding [Online] 2018 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/teeth-grinding
Healthdirect. 10 tips for healthy sleep [Online] 2019 [Accessed September 2020] Available from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/10-tips-for-healthy-sleep