When researchers turn to the matter of healthy lifestyles – as in this 2016 study in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings – they typically focus on just four elements: diet, exercise, obesity, and smoking status. Yet this is hardly all there is to “health.”
One of the most overlooked aspects? Sleep.
The value of getting enough sleep and good quality was recently highlighted in a study out of the UK. Analyzing data from more than 30,000 individuals, researchers found that “better sleep leads to levels of mental and physical health comparable to those of somebody who’s won a jackpot of around £200,000.”
Furthermore, the same people showed improved scores on…levels of physical and emotional health, as well as [the] ability to perform everyday activities.
Conversely, it was found that a lack of sleep, bad quality sleep, and using more sleep medication can lead to worsened medical and emotional states.
Plenty of research has linked sleep loss with diabetes, heart disease, and other health issues. We’ve also seen that getting enough sleep correlates with improved immunity, memory, and mood.
But what a lot of people don’t realize is that sleep can have a profound impact on your oral health, as well.
This was most recently shown in a study published in the Journal of Clinical Periodontology, which looked at the relationship between sleep duration and gum health. The authors found that the less people slept, the more likely it was they’d have the advanced form of gum disease known as periodontitis.
The association has shown to be highlighted in middle-aged people, females, non-smokers, lower educated, with lower lead and higher cadmium blood levels and with higher carotene dietary intake ones and to be partially mediated by lipid profile alterations, diabetes, serum Vitamin D levels and WBC count.
This relationship between insufficient sleep and gum disease has been shown in earlier studies, animal and human alike. One concluded that lack of sleep was second only to smoking as a risk factor for gum disease.
If you’re a regular reader of this blog – or know a bit already about oral health matters – then you know what gum disease can lead to: a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, cancer, and more, not to mention bone and tooth loss.
At the same time, dental problems themselves can interfere with sleep. Bruxing, tooth pain, and other issues can keep you from getting enough deep, REM sleep. TMJ and jaw alignment issues can contribute to sleep breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea – as can obesity.
Sleep disorders of all kinds – of which apnea is but one sort – have also been found linked to poorer gum health and increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Now, you might not think to talk with your dentist about sleep problems you may be having, but it can be a good place to start – especially if other options have failed. Dental conditions are still often overlooked as a source of systemic health problems – yet another thing that makes a holistic approach to oral health especially valuable.
And if you’re sleeping already but would like to sleep better? Here are a few tips:
- Avoid caffeinated and sugary drinks late in the day, and don’t eat anything after 7pm.
- Try a calming herbal supplement or tea about an hour before bedtime. Think valerian root, chamomile, lemongrass. Supplements such as melatonin and glycine can also be helpful, as can calcium and magnesium taken together.
- Go to bed at a regular time each night and wake up at the same time each day.
- Keep your bedroom dark, cool, and quiet. And keep tech out of your sleep space. At minimum, shut off all screens – TV, smartphone, tablet, computer – at least one hour before it’s time for sleep.
- Do some controlled breathing just before sleep.
- Play soft, soothing music on a sleep timer to fall asleep to – or natural sounds to help you relax.