You toss, you turn, your eyes burn – it’s another sleepless night. And tomorrow you’ll have a headache, a bad attitude and brain fog. You’ll consume as much caffeine and carbohydrates as you can, in an effort to stay awake and reasonably coherent.
You figure you’ll sleep for sure tonight because you’re exhausted but your body decides to perk up an hour or two after you get into bed. And so the cycle continues. If it’s any comfort, you’re not alone. More than 30 million Americans suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, according to WebMD.
May is National “Sleep Better” month, so let’s celebrate by getting more shuteye. Here are some ways to enhance your ability to sleep.
What Causes Insomnia?
Sleep problems can be caused by stress, busy schedules, or health conditions that make it difficult to get a good night’s sleep. For many, getting to sleep is easy, but staying asleep is hard. Frequent disruptions to your sleep may have many causes, from room temperature to noise levels, hormones to a new baby in the house.
Medical issues are, of course, often the cause of sleep problems. Anything that is causing you pain or discomfort is likely to affect your sleep. But your insomnia may also be caused by less obvious health problems such as dental and oral health conditions, such as sleep apnea and teeth grinding. Many people suffer from one or both.
There are even dentists who specialize in treating sleep problems. These dentists tend to work with physicians to identify the cause of a patient’s sleep disturbances. The dental specialist then prescribes oral appliances that a patient uses to help manage conditions such as snoring, obstructive sleep apnea, and teeth grinding.
Dental Sleep Medicine
A dental oral appliance is a device similar to a sports mouth guard or orthodontic retainer. A custom-fit oral appliance to treat sleep problems such as snoring or obstructive sleep apnea supports the jaw in a forward position to prevents the airway from collapsing.
Continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy is the most frequently used treatment for sleep apnea. The CPAP machine keeps the airway open by pushing air through tubing, attached to a mask that must be worn during sleep. Some people can’t adjust successfully to CPAP therapy – they can’t sleep with the mask, they find the machine too noisy – but may find that they can sleep comfortably wearing a dental oral appliance. CPAP machines are also less portable than an oral appliance, which is a concern for people who travel regularly. Some people use a CPAP at home, and the appliance when travelling.
Finding A Dental Sleep Specialist
Your own dentist may be able to work with your doctor to devise a treatment plan that enables you to sleep. Or you may choose to work with a dental sleep specialist. You can ask your dentist or other health care providers for recommendations, or look for dentists who have been certified by the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine (ABDSM) or the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine (AADSM)
Dealing with Teeth Grinding
40-million Americans engage in bruxism – the formal term for teeth grinding and clenching – and about 70% of all teeth grinding happens when we’re sleeping. Grinding and clenching can, in the worst cases, weaken teeth, fracture fillings, crack crowns, and destroy dentures.
It’s common for people to be totally unaware they are nocturnal gnashers. An aggravated partner, denied sleep due to the sound of grinding, is the most common indicator that there is a problem. Sore jaws, a clicking sound when you open your mouth, a dull constant headache that originates around the temples, tender teeth, and even indentations on your lounge are other typical signs.
The causes of bruxism are many. It could be an unconscious reaction to teeth that don’t line up properly. It can be a response to tension. It could be a side effect of some medicines (Prozac, Zoloft and Paxil are known to cause grinding in some people). And it could be just a habit.
But it’s a habit that’s best to break, as it can severely damage teeth and gums, wreck your expensive dental work, deprive your partner of sleep, and even permanently distort your face due to swollen muscles near the sides of the lower jaw.
For anything more than the occasional bout of teeth grinding, you should see your dentist. He or she will check your bite and general dental health, and will probably ask about any medicines you take or stress that you have in your life.
The most common preventative treatment for severe cases of teeth grinding is to wear what’s called “a night bite plate” or a “bite splint.” Your dentist will fit one for you, some fit over the bottom teeth, others go on the top. In general, they work by compensating for misaligned teeth or by keeping your jaw more relaxed.
Other treatments for severe bruxism include muscle relaxants, tooth realignment – and most recently some dentists are investigating the use of Botox injected into jaw muscles. The Botox weakens the muscles’ clenching power, in theory resulting in less dental damage no matter how hard and frequently patients may grind their teeth.
Dental care can help stop the damage caused by bruxism. If you’ve been putting off seeing a dentist due to cost, you’ll be happy to know that their affordable alternative to paying out of pocket and pricey insurance: a dental savings plan from :DentalPlans.
Find out more about dental savings plans at dentalplans.com, or by calling 1-800-238-5163.