Sleep Disorders and Your Health…..The Critical Connection

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?
Do you wake up several times during the night?
Do you snore?
Do you take OTC or prescription drugs for headaches?
Do you clench or grind your teeth at night?  How about during the day?

If you have answered yes to these questions, you may have a sleep disorder.

Let’s first consider why getting good sleep is so important.  Sleep is critical to your overall health, as the light and dark cycles turn hormone production on and off, and activate the immune system.  Nature dictates that we sleep during the dark and are awake during the light of day to optimize our systems.  Man first extended the day using firelight, then electricity.  Now people are out of sync with nature, and it has taken a serious toll on our health.  People are sick, in part, because they are tired!

Light cycles drive internal systems in all animals, and humans are no different.  Not only are hormones and immune systems impacted, but so are our regular functions, such as eating, etc.  As a result, sleeping controls eating and stress; eating and stress in turn control reproduction; and all these together control aging.  So in the end, not enough sleep has the ability to increase obesity, hunger, impotence, hypertension, and cancer.

Nature would have us sleep 4,370 hours out of a possible 8,760.  Today we might sleep 2,555.  In 1970, Americans devoted 27 hours/week to leisure.  Today we might devote 15 hours/week.  Bottom line, all work, no play, and no sleep have made Americans very sick.

A leading cause of sleep deprivation is sleep apnea, a sleep disorder characterized by pauses in breathing during sleep. Each episode called an apnea, lasts long enough so that one or more breaths are missed, and such episodes occur repeatedly throughout sleep.  This can either lead to wakefulness or feeling unrested and unrefreshed when the alarm clock goes off.

There are two types of sleep apnea:  Central (neurological) and Obstructive (blocked airway).  A dentist can only treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA).  The pathology of snoring is the same for OSA, however not all people who snore have sleep apnea, although it is the most noticeable symptom.  The percentage a person snores is directly related to the prevalence of coronary disease.  In other words, the more one snores, the greater the risk for stroke.

Reasons for airway obstruction leading to OSA include:  large tonsils, underdeveloped upper jaw, tongue piercing, obesity, low palate, restricted tongue, craniofacial anomalies, and medications.  Symptoms such as morning headaches, GERD, bruxism (grinding/clenching teeth), waking unrested, using OTC sleep aids, sore throat, and TMJ pain are all associated with sleep disorders.  Besides macro trauma (accidents), sleep disorders are the primary cause of TMD (Temporal Mandibular Dysfunction).

Sleep Apnea is not just an adult issue; many children suffer and are unable to express themselves.  It is critical to diagnose airway obstruction in children for many reasons, including, if they don’t sleep, they don’t secrete the growth hormone.  These children are also likely to have daytime cognitive and behavioral problems, including paying attention, aggression, and hyperactivity, which can lead to problems at school.

If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder, a sleep study is a tool used for diagnosis.  Once the diagnosis is confirmed—snoring, and/or mild to moderate Obstructive Sleep Apnea—Dr. Giordano can help.  He will design a comfortable, removable oral appliance that will place the jaws in the best position to breath and the most comfortable and healthy position for your Temporal Mandibular Joints (TMJ’s).  These appliances are monitored by our take-home sleep study kit to ensure maximum benefit.  In the past, the CPAP has been the only option given.  Patient compliance for the CPAP can be an issue as it is loud and uncomfortable.  Oral appliances are now a great choice for those who suffer from snoring and/or have mild to moderate OSA’s or have CPAP intolerance.  If you think you suffer from OSA, call our office today and schedule an evaluation.  It all boils down to this:

Sleep well – Live healthier – Live longer!

Dr. Giordano offers FREE Information/Screening Sessions.  For more information, call 607-748-4151