Sleep deprivation is no joke. In the early days of parenthood I used to joke that I understood why sleep deprivation was such an effective torture tactic used by the military. While common side effects like depression and signs of advanced aging are common among those who commonly wrack up a sleep deficit, did you know there are even more dangerous outcomes? Lack of sleep is commonly contributed to avoidable accidents. Studies have shown after 17-19 hours without sleep, the body performs at the same level as if you were legally drunk. Not only does this contribute to over 100,000 car crashes, sleep deprivation has been credited with some of the worst disasters in modern history such as the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl and the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Sleep loss is also a disaster for your health. Chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for heart attacks and heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and numerous oral health conditions. While these conditions are frequently discussed the effects on oral health care frequently overlooked. Good oral health is essential for comprehensive wellness as it is known diseases that begin in the mouth can easily affect the whole body.
The amount of sleep you get every night has a direct connection with the onset of periodontitis which is an inflammatory disease that affects the tissues surrounding the teeth. This occurs because sleeping allows your immune system to recalibrate and maintain strength. Sleep is necessary to maintain an active and strong immune system. Without this the onset of periodontitis can be detrimental and result in pockets between the gums and teeth. Left untreated, this can result in the shifting and loosing of teeth and destruction of the bone that holds the teeth in place.
Sleep deprivation also leads to inflammation – particularly in the gums. According to research, even modest sleep loss triggers cellular and genetic processes involved in the immune system’s inflammatory response to disease in injury. Inflammation in the gums – spurred by the release of inflammatory hormones caused by the lack of sleep – can signal gingivitis. While not as severe as periodontitis, it is a serious infection caused by bacteria in the gums. In addition, if left untreated gingivitis can turn into periodontitis which can lead to tooth loss.
Sleep is also necessary to give your mouth the opportunity to repair tissue. Every day your gums, teeth, tongue and lips take a beating. Ensuring your body has enough time to rest and rest will allow your mouth to build itself back up. Without this opportunity your gums can suffer and result in gum disease which can lead to gingivitis or more serious diseases that could result in tooth loss.
While the duration of sleep is important, the quality of sleep is the most important factor in preventing poor oral health. Interrupted sleep wreaks havoc on your body as a whole. Even if you care getting eight hours, frequent waking will counteract any benefit you may have gotten.
In order to get the needed sleep, it is important to establish a sleep routine. Good sleep hygiene begins with ensuring your body is not over stimulated prior to going to bed. This means putting down the iPhone or turning off the TV well before you crash for the night. In addition, be cognizant of how your body reacts to caffeine. It is estimated the half-life is 5-10 hours. Drinking a soda at 6pm, may have you looking at the ceiling well into the night. Finally, purge your bedroom of any distractions. Your body should identify your bedroom as a room for nothing other than sleep. Following these steps to ensure restful and restorative sleep with not only benefit your oral health; it will benefit your whole body’s wellness.