We all need sleep to function!

Sleep has a critical role in promoting health. 

Not getting enough sleep has been linked with a number of problems ranging from chronic disease to psychological problems. Roughly 35% of Americans get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep. 

Research over the past decade has documented that sleep disturbance has a powerful influence on the risk of infectious disease, the occurrence and progression of several major medical illnesses including cardiovascular disease and cancer, depression. Chronic sleep deprivation over time has even been linked to brain disorders such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s. 

10-30 % suffer from sleep disorders, insomnia or sleep apnea.

In children, lack of sleep has been shown to cause anxiety, hyperactivity and disruptive behavior. In reality, getting just one hour less of sleep per night across several days has adverse effects on a child’s behavior in school. 

Sleep related problems affect approximately 25-40% of children and adolescents. The acquisition of sleep patterns characterized by later bedtimes, insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness is related to poorer school performance, daytime drowsiness, physical tiredness and a higher rate of psychiatric illnesses. 

Getting more or better sleep isn’t a matter of going to bed earlier or sleeping in. It turns out diet and breathing contribute to good or bad sleep. Some people can even pinpoint food or beverages that contribute to poor sleep. The two obvious ones that can interfere with sleep are coffee and alcohol. 

Persistent mouth breathing affects stomatognathic functions along with effects on the academics and social life of a child. Sleep-related problems and behavioral symptoms similar to that found in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can be present in mouth breathers. 

Children with ADHD had more parent-reported problems in terms of emotional-control, behavior, mental health, and self-esteem. In addition, the problems of children with ADHD had a significant impact on the parents’ emotional health as well, with less time to meet their own needs, lack of sleep interfered with family activities and family cohesion.  Parents of children with attention-deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), are reporting it is affecting quality of life which is increasingly gaining more attention as parents learn more about sleep disordered breathing.

The aim of treatment for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is to decrease symptoms, enhance function, and improve well-being for the child and his or her close contacts. However, the measurement of treatment response is often limited to measuring symptoms using behavior rating scales and checklists completed by teachers and parents. Because so much of the focus has been on symptom reduction, less is known about other possible related  health problems.

When I first started my journey in the dental field  my knowledge base was more focused on the parts of the mouth, but  what I’ve come to find out is that the body is  complex and made up of several systems that all work together. Yet, modern healthcare treats them separately and generally only treats the symptoms. The stomatognathic system, which is a big word that describes the teeth and gums, bones, the jaw joints, the tendons, the muscles of the head and neck, the suspensory muscles that allow our head to be in a postural awake, alert, feeding position. All that allows us to function day in and day out things that we might take for granted. That’s all part of a system that we have to great extent a big responsibility for. When I started I wanted to help reduce the number of kids that had cavities. Cavities are the #1 preventable childhood disease.  It’s not just about the teeth or the gums, which is what initially I focus more on because that’s where my training was. But as I started practicing, and seeing more and really going through more and more training, I realized it is about so much more. This information is not new, it is just not being taught. 

Evidence shows that good sleep patterns are vital for achieving overall health. Mouth Breathing and diet  are the main reasons for not getting a good night’s sleep.

So what does good sleep look like? And why is each phase of sleep so important?

First in order to get the best sleep you’re supposed to be breathing in through your nose and out of your nose at night so  you go into the parasympathetic system which is rest,  digest and when our bodies heal. 

If you cannot breathe well because you’re congested or because your tongue is falling in the back of your airway, whatever reason it may.

Your brain goes into a survival mode or fight or flight. The first thing you have to do in order to survive is to be able to breathe, but if you can’t breathe, your brain is going to make you move around a lot to wake things up to help you get more oxygen. 

You may not wake up, but it kicks you back to stage one sleep every time that you move. 

You’re supposed to cycle from stage one, stage two, stage three, which is deep sleep and REM.

There are two main types of sleep: rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM. Non-REM has three separate stages. 

You cycle through every stage of non-REM and REM sleep multiple times during a typical night of rest.  Each one plays an essential role in maintaining your mental and physical health.

You usually start the sleep cycle with stage 1 of non-REM sleep. You pass through the other stages of non-REM sleep, followed by a short period of REM sleep. Then the cycle begins again at stage 1. Each full sleep cycle takes about 90 to 110 minutes.   Ideally, you need four to six cycles of sleep every 24 hours to feel fresh and rested. 

Generally between the times of 10:00 pm and 2:00 am the body goes through a dramatic process of physical repair. Roughly  between 2:00 am and 6:00 am the body will go through a process of psychological repair. A disrupted sleep pattern will cause the Cortisol to elevate and negatively affect the regenerative process.

Non-REM Stage 1

During this short period, your body and mind begin to transition from awake to light sleep. 

Your heart rate, breathing rate, and eye movements begin to slow down as your muscles relax. Brain waves start to slow. 

Non-REM Stage 2

During this stage of sleep, you remain in a period of light sleep before reaching deeper sleep. 

Your heart rate and breathing continue to slow as your body temperature decreases, muscles relax even further, and eye movements stop altogether. Brain waves continue to slow, but small, quick bursts of electrical activity occur. 

Non-REM Stage 3

Stage 3 non-REM sleep occurs in longer periods throughout the first half of the night. Your heartbeat and breathing slow down to their slowest rates during this phase of sleep. Brain waves slow to their lowest level of activity. 

Experts believe that stage 3 sleep is where our most restorative sleep takes place, helping us recover, grow, and process memories. 

REM Sleep

REM sleep first occurs within around 90 minutes of falling asleep. During this stage, your eyes move back and forth rapidly, giving this stage of sleep its name. 

Brain activity during this stage is closer to the same type of activity seen during waking hours, which may explain why most of our dreams take place during REM sleep. 

Breathing and heart rates increase, while the arms and legs become paralyzed to prevent you from acting out any dreams. 

​​This sleep stage is believed to be essential to cognitive functioning, including learning, creativity, and memory. 

 Multiple studies of both humans and animals suggest that  being deprived of REM sleep interferes with memory formation. However, memory problems associated with a loss of REM sleep could be due to overall sleep disruption, since those often occur together. Lack of sleep may explain the increase in Alzheimer’s

The amount of time spent in each sleep phase may vary between individuals, especially depending on age. During a solid night’s rest, your body should go through anywhere from four to five 90-minute cycles, from stage 1 through 3 and into REM sleep. 

Cycles that occur closer to falling asleep may include longer stretches of deep sleep, while portions spent in REM sleep increase as morning nears. 

Now that we know why sleep deprivation is dangerous and how “the nocturnal brain” functions during rest as it cycles through sleep phases, we can dive into why we need sleep in the first place. 

“Many people wake up tired, even though they think they had an adequate amount of sleep. This is likely due to insufficient amounts of deep and REM sleep” so while all stages of sleep are essential to overall well-being, these are considered the most important stages.”

Believe it or not, sleep is like food for the brain. 

Sleep Feeds the Brain

By now, you’ve heard that most adults need to get between 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function and help us transform food into energy. When the body doesn’t respond correctly to insulin, we store fat rather than processing it for energy. Without adequate sleep, insulin sensitivity drops by more than 30 percent

This may slow metabolism, causing our bodies to hang onto fat. Sleep deprivation causes metabolic hunger, while sufficient sleep helps to lower cortisol and process insulin more efficiently. With lack of sleep we crave sugar for the dopamine hit. 

Sleep not only “feeds” our physical bodies, but it also feeds our minds in a way that connects to emotional health. 

Rest and Sleep Help in Regulating Emotions 

Have you ever felt extremely irritable after a poor night’s rest? There’s a reason for that. 

During sleep, brain activity is responsible for regulating emotions.. 

The amygdala, medial prefrontal cortex, and hippocampus all light up as we rest. This part of the brain is responsible for our fear response. When faced with a threat, the amygdala controls our reaction to stressful situations. 

If you’re getting proper amounts of sleep, the amygdala functions in a regulated manner. However, if you’re sleep-deprived, the amygdala may overreact to stimuli, causing you to feel off-balance. 

This may explain the connection between anxiety, mental health and sleep. Sleep disturbances worsen and contribute to mental health conditions. 

Proper sleep patterns prevent us from feeling irritable and bad. 

However, sleep doesn’t just help to restore and regulate parts of the brain like the amygdala. It helps to restore the entire body. 

Sleep Heals

Sleep provides the body a chance to repair itself, boost the immune system, repair damaged tissues, grow muscles, retain memories and  more. 

Certain growth hormones are released during sleep only. Without adequate sleep, the body can’t function properly and maintain itself. 

Sleep actually provides “nutrition” to the brain. Sleeping too little causes the stress hormone cortisol to spike, signaling to your body to conserve more energy throughout the day. 

So you’re never getting into deep sleep, you stay in the light sleep. So even though you’re in bed for 7 to 10 hours, you’re not getting quality sleep.You stay in fight or flight, so you’re not getting all the amazing hormones that are supposed to be released during deep sleep. So pretty much our body breaks down during the day.

If you’re not breathing well, you can’t reach deep sleep. If you’re not reaching all of these stages, it’s not healing. It’s just breaking down every single day,  affecting our bodies ability to function properly.

There’s so much more for your body.

Besides not getting the growth hormone.You have a couple other hormones to help you feel well in a day if you are not getting them at night when you sleep you are always craving sugar and carbs. 

Then your body doesn’t get the nutrients it needs and there’s so many other hormones for repair and regeneration of your body. So instead of getting those amazing hormones, you get cortisol.

Cortisol makes you hyper during the day and increases anxiety and depression especially in young women. It increases inflammation. It prevents you from losing weight because we hold on to fat. Too much cortisol is bad for you.

Bed wetting is the same survival mechanism. If your body is not able to breathe properly, and you know in a healthy way, your body kind of releases everything that’s not important, some wet the bed, some will sweat.

Kids can be hyperactive due to lack of sleep and misdiagnosed with ADHD when they could have sleep disorder breathing or sleep apnea.

For it to be sleep apnea you have to stop breathing at least 10 seconds at a time in order to be considered an apnea.

While a sleep study would show Apnea every single time that happens, it may not show arousals that are  interrupting sleep in children. So a sleep study is not alway recommended.

Arousals  kick you back to sleep stage one sleep and you’re not getting the benefits of sleep and you are getting less oxygen that goes into your brain.

So you’re just starving yourself and your body and your cells and your organs.

In fact, some animals lose the ability to maintain their immune systems and die after experiencing weeks of sleep deprivation. 

Extreme sleep deprivation messes with our immune response, causing an increase in inflammation across the body. 

As a result, our risk for developing or worsening infections or diseases advance when we’re low on sleep. 

Without these restorative stages of sleep, we can’t learn and process memories as we should, either. 

Neuroplasticity at Night

Shows us sleeping and dreaming help us clear out unnecessary memories and remember vital, important information.  

In fact, lack of sleep is tied to memory processing issues. Another study proved that a lack of proper sleep reduces learning efficiency by messing with the brain’s synapses. 

Synapses are tiny connections between our neurons that work with neurotransmitters to pass electrical signals from one neuron to another. 

During the day, our synapses are fired on, ready to respond to any stimuli we experience.

As we sleep, these synapses power down, helping us feel restored and renewed when we wake and need to use them at a higher capacity. Without restorative sleep, our synapses function too long. 

This hinders neuroplasticity of the brain, or our ability to create new connections between neurons. Neuroplasticity is vital for helping us learn new skills and new pieces of information. 

We need efficient sleep to keep learning, functioning, and processing properly. 

Strangely enough, sleep becomes fragmented by easily preventable things, such as snoring and mouth breathing.. 

If you want to decrease sleep deprivation, addressing sleep-disordered breathing that causes snoring, clenching and grinding is a great place to start. 

As we’ve learned, the quality of our sleep is directly tied to the quality of our lives. 

Mouth breathing at night causes snoring, which leads to poor oxygen exchange, fragmented sleep, and in severe cases, sleep apnea and other health conditions. 

Proper airway health and breathing techniques can drastically improve our well-being. Putting an end to mouth breathing during the day requires some extra attention on our breathing, but what about at night when our subconscious mind takes over?

Since we can’t actively pay attention to our breathing during sleep, the easiest way to ensure nasal breathing during rest is to tape your mouth shut before bed. 

It’s a proven snoring solution that helps us get the adequate sleep we need to stay healthy and function properly. 

All the musculature in the upper airway is at its peak. So during deep sleep, we don’t expect to see any sort of airflow limitation. We shouldn’t see any volume reductions during deep sleep. If we do, we know that there’s an architecture problem, not enough room for the tongue and an airway or breathing issue.

When you put your child to sleep you might expect to hear a soft sigh or maybe a quiet buzz of a movie they fell asleep to, but one thing that parents do not want to hear is the sound of their child’s teeth grinding together. Teeth grinding or jaw clenching approximately three out of every ten children will grind or clench during their childhood years according to a Dr Kevin Boyd. While many children grow out of this habit with age, it can cause damage to the tooth enamel, chipped teeth, and can carry on into adulthood causing even greater problems.

Some children grind during the day when they are angry, stressed, or depressed, however, the majority of the time it occurs during sleep. Bruxism can leave your child waking up with earaches, headaches, and a sore jaw. Many parents do not notice their child even grinding their teeth because much of the grinding is done when the child is away in another room, out of the parents presence. 

Staying attentive can give you great insight to learn if your child has Bruxism. Listen while they sleep, if you hear loud noises like rocks rubbing each other, that is a good sign that your child is grinding their teeth . Other ways you can detect grinding is to take note when your child says he or she has a headache or sore jaw when they wake up.

 If they are complaining about these things on a regular basis, it is a good idea to see an orthodontist  to check out their teeth and determine if any action is required to protect your child’s smile. Another common complaint of children with Bruxism is pain when chewing; after clenching or grinding all night the muscles in the mouth are sore and it can hurt to eat.

While most children outgrow teeth grinding it is important to monitor your child’s habit. You can help prevent damage to your child’s teeth by administering a retainer that is much like the guard that a football player might wear during a game. 

Parents can work on reducing their child’s stress before bedtime. By making them feel calm, relaxed and at ease, your child’s grinding may also decrease. If the teeth grinding is in fact caused by stress, it is important to note that the grinding will not go away until the stress also goes away.

Understanding of the relationship between sleep, the neuroscience and autonomic pathways that connect sleep with the immune system is key to a happy healthy life.

The connection of the body and the mouth are a much under-discussed topic that need more awareness of what we can do early to prevent illnesses if we want to help our kids not suffer the same fate as their parents or grandparents. 

Many of the illnesses we see today have to do with lifestyle choices and knowing better so we can do better. You don’t know what you don’t know.

I wish I knew this information sooner. I could have helped so many people.  Know that  I know what I know I am  making changes to protect my daughter’s future and the future or my grandchildren and great grandchildren  from experiencing the same issues many people in my family have experienced. 

Some of what we are seeing is genetic but a lot of it is epigenetic.

We can now intervene sooner and prevent some of these issues through awareness and sharing this information to live healthier lives .

Watch your loved one look for these signs and symptoms if you would like help schedule a free 15 minute call to discuss your concerns. When we know better we can do better, breathe better and sleep better.