Sleep insomnia and other sleep disorders are very common in the U.S., with an estimated 50-70 million adults who have some type of sleep or wakefulness disorder, according to the…

Sleep Insomnia
Photo by Flood G. / CC-NC-ND

How Sleep Insomnia and Other Sleep Disorders Affect Your Dental Health

Sleep insomnia and other sleep disorders are very common in the U.S., with an estimated 50-70 million adults who have some type of sleep or wakefulness disorder, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

And while most know the correlation between sleep and health, few may understand the relationship between sleep and dental health.

Here, we’ll talk about how sleep insomnia and other sleep disorders can affect your dental health and what you can do about it.

Nocturnal Eating Syndrome (NES)

What is it?

Nocturnal eating syndrome is an eating disorder where a person is fully aware of what they’re doing when they’re eating late at night. It is believed that between 1 and 3 percent of the population has either this nocturnal eating syndrome or a sleep-related eating disorder, which we’ll talk about next.  Both are considered an eating disorder and a sleep disorder.

Those who have NES usually wake up in the middle of the night with an uncontrollable desire to eat something, even if they aren’t hungry at all. No matter how hard a person tries to resist it, they are usually unable to go back to sleep until they eat.

How does it affect your dental health?

Eating late at night can contribute to tooth loss, no matter what type of food you eat. One of the main causes of this is dry mouth. Saliva decreases at night, leading to dry mouth, and it is saliva that is a key factor in removing bacteria in your mouth to reduce your risk of tooth decay.

Steps you can take to circumvent its long-term effects:

  • Practice good oral health, even in the middle of the night, by making sure you brush and floss your teeth after you’ve eaten anything.
  • Drink only water for an hour before you brush your teeth that night. If you get up for a late-night snack, swish water around in your mouth for a few minutes before brushing your teeth again.

Other health risks:

  • Weight gain
  • Type-2 Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Hypertension

Sleep-Related Eating Disorder (SRED)

What is it?

Eating With Sleep Insomnia

Photo by RebeccaPollard / CC

Sleep-related eating disorder differs from the nocturnal eating syndrome because a person who has a sleep-related eating disorder only partially wakes up in the middle of the night and then begins sleep-eating. This typically means he/she will eat a large amount of unhealthy foods. People with SRED may not remember eating in their sleep, or they may only remember bits and pieces of the night.

How does it affect your dental health?

Just like with nocturnal eating syndrome, eating late at night can contribute to tooth loss because of the decrease in saliva flow.

Steps you can take to circumvent its long-term effects:

  • Practice good oral health during the hours you are awake by brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day and limiting the amount of sugar and acidic food and beverages you have.
  • Make it a habit to drink only water for an hour before brushing your teeth before you go to bed.

Other health risks:

  • Weight gain
  • Type-2 Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Hypertension

Bruxism

What is it?

Do you have a sore jaw when you wake up in the morning? Are your teeth sore? It may be a sign that you grind your teeth while you sleep. Nocturnal tooth grinding is also known as bruxism. This is a common disorder in adults. Sleepfoundation.org estimates that 8% of adults grind their teeth when they’re sleeping, and nearly one-third of parents say their children have shown signs of bruxism.

Most researchers believe bruxism can be caused by several factors: anxiety, stress, sleep apnea, snoring, fatigue, caffeine, alcohol consumption and cigarettes.

How does it affect your dental health?

Bruxism, when it occurs every now and then, isn’t that harmful. However, if it is a common occurrence, it can cause serious dental damage, facial pain and disrupt sleep.

Steps you can take to circumvent its long-term effects:

  • Wear a mouth-guard to bed
  • De-stress before going to sleep
  • Refrain from consuming too much alcohol or caffeine and stop smoking
  • Treat your sleep apnea, which I’ll explain down below

To understand which treatment method would be best for you, talk to your doctor.

Other health risks

Bruxism can also cause health problems, including:

  • Headaches
  • Earaches
  • Jaw joint disorders
  • Jaw pain

Sleep Insomnia

What is it?

Sleep insomnia is a condition where you are unable to fall asleep. It’s a common problem most people experience every once in a while. There is short-term insomnia—where this occurs every now and then—and then there is long-term insomnia, in which this occurs frequently.

How does it affect your dental health?

Most sleep disorders come back to one thing when it comes to how it affects your dental health, and that’s food. When we can’t sleep and we need to be sleeping, we tend to get bored, and when people get bored they tend to eat.

Steps you can take to circumvent its long-term effects:

  • Next time you find yourself unable to go to sleep and you’re eating in the middle of the night, brush and floss your teeth after you eat. Or, resist the urge to eat and drink some water instead.
  • If you have short-term insomnia, your sleep insomnia will most likely rectify itself, but if it doesn’t, you can take a sleeping pill that can help you get some sleep.
  • If you have long-term insomnia, sleeping pills will only make it worse. Talk to your doctor about some lifestyle habits you can change to help you sleep, and discover the hidden cause of your inability to sleep so you can root it out or make yourself more aware of the problem.

Other health risks:

  • Reaction time
  • Hand-eye coordination
  • Poor memory
  • Poor judgment
  • Damage to your immune system

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

What is it?

Obstructive sleep apnea is a common sleep disorder that occurs when the upper airways’ tissues come too close together while you’re sleeping. This blocks the inflow of air temporarily. It often occurs in men who are 40 years of age or older, who smoke and who are overweight.

How does it affect your dental health?

While this doesn’t necessarily impact your dental health (that we’re aware of), dental devices can actually improve this condition so you can sleep soundly.

Steps you can take to circumvent its long-term effects:

  • Quit smoking if you smoke.
  • Don’t drink any alcohol 4 hours prior to bedtime.
  • Try and lose weight to improve your sleep apnea.
  • Use a breathing device, which can help open up your airways.
  • Try a dental device. These are custom-made mouthpieces that can position the lower jaw and tongue while you sleep so your airway is not blocked.
  • Have surgery. In severe cases, obstructive sleep apnea should be treated through surgery.

Other health risks:

There are a number of health risks to be aware of if you have sleep apnea. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Asthma
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Headaches
  • High-risk pregnancies
  • Seizures, nerve disorders, epilepsy
  • Glaucoma and other eye disorders
  • High blood pressure
  • Coronary artery disease and heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Atrial Fibrillation
Sleep Insomnia

Photo by Alyssa L. Miller / CC

Conclusion

Don’t simply live with your sleep disorder as if there is no way to change it. Research it, talk to your doctor about it and find a solution to it for the sake of your health and dental health.

Do you have a sleep disorder? What ways have you found help you sleep?

Natasha is 1Dental’s managing editor and copywriter, focusing content on dental and health news, advice and tips straight from the experts. She graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a bachelor’s degree in Journalism and Mass Communication and has since been a book editor and now copywriter and managing editor on dental and health. You can find her on Twitter and all of 1Dental’s social networks.

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