2022 – The Year For Better Sleep

Tuesday January 04, 2022

Happy New Year! As most of us are back from a few extra days off, time marches on and our daily routines are back in full force. One of the things reinforced with me during my short break was how important sleep is. 

My body has become accustomed to a certain amount of quality sleep. I have always had difficulty sleeping past a certain time in the morning, regardless of what time I go to bed. On the days over this holiday period that I stayed up later than I normally do, my amount of sleep hours was less and my quality of sleep tended to be lower. This had an impact on the way I felt the next day. Sleep hygiene, including regular bedtime, is so important.

There are many reasons for poor quality sleep. Everything from a poor mattress, poor pillow, sleep position, medical issues, diet, alcohol consumption, and work schedule can have an impact on the quality of sleep that we get. Although some people can notice subtle changes in sleep quality, many others do not realize that some of the issues they have routinely can be caused by poor sleep quality. 

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout our lives. The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping.

Sleep helps your brain work properly. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Studies also show that sleep deficiency may cause you to have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change.

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, sexual dysfunction, ADHD, obesity and depression.

Sleep issues can affect the young, the old and everyone in between. The many changes that take place in our bodies as we age can increase the risk of sleep disorders. 

Sleep apnea is one of many sleep disorders. It is a serious, potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that affects approximately 18 million Americans. It comes from the Greek meaning of apnea which means “want of breath”. People with sleep apnea have episodes in which they stop breathing for 10 seconds or more during sleep.

People with sleep apnea usually do not remember waking up during the night. Some of the potential problems may include morning headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability and impaired mental or emotional functioning, excessive snoring, choking/gasping during sleep, insomnia, or awakening with a dry mouth or throat. 

Some simple questions to ask yourself are: Have you been told that you snore?

Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the daytime?

Has anyone ever told you that you stop breathing while you were asleep – or- Have you ever woken yourself up with a gasp?

Do you have high blood pressure or are you on more than one medication to control high blood pressure?

Is your body mass index greater than 28?

Are you a male with a neck circumference greater than 17 inches or a female greater 16 inches?

If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, or if there is anything else in this column that makes you believe you may not be getting the quality of sleep you would like, please discuss these with your physician.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. He has a special interest in treating snoring, sleep apnea and TMJ problems. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have, please email them to him at jpstclair@stclairdmd.com

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