Can not getting enough sleep really be hurting your teeth?
They call it beauty sleep but getting a good night’s rest can do a lot more than preserve your good looks.
Research proves a relationship between sleep deprivation and the onset of many health problems, including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Now we can add periodontitis–or gum disease– to that list.
The Link Between Sleep and Oral Health
The amount of sleep you get per night is related to the onset of periodontitis–a disease in which deep pockets form between the teeth and gums, leading to loose and shifting teeth, and the destruction of the bone and connective tissue which hold teeth in place.
A study at the Osaka University Graduate School of Medicine examined over 200 factory workers to assess whether various lifestyle factors (i.e. exercise, diet, stress) had an effect on periodontitis. Throughout the four year-study, researchers used periodontal probes to monitor any changes in the pockets between teeth and gums.
According to the findings, workers who slept seven to eight hours per night were had a lower risk for periodontitis than those who slept less than six hours per night. In fact, sleep deprivation was the second most influential factor associated with the onset of periodontitis, right behind smoking.
Lack of Sleep and Inflammation
The root of this association is most likely inflammation. Sleep deprivation is a known cause of increased inflammation, which in turn is a risk factor for other serious diseases like heart disease and stroke.
Research at the Emory University School of Medicine found that, when you are sleep deprived, there is an increased production of inflammatory hormones. One such inflammatory marker, C-reactive protein, was 25% higher in subjects who had less than six hours of sleep per night.
In addition to being a risk factor for heart disease and stroke, inflammation is also a sign of gingivitis, the mild form of gum disease that can lead to periodontitis.
Get A Good Night’s Sleep
It’s not how long, but how well you sleep that counts too. Even if you get a full eight hours each night, you don’t get the same health benefits if you wake up often.
A few tips for those that have trouble getting a good night’s rest:
Routine: Your body clock wants to adjust to your needs, but it cannot adjust if those needs are always changing. Establishing a routine alerts the body that this is the time you need to go to sleep.
Wind-down without your electronics: Giving yourself time to wind-down before you sleep helps your mind relax. There are many different ways to wind-down, whether it’s reading, yoga, or sipping a cup of hot tea. Just be sure not to use electronics. The latest research shows that artificial light from laptops, TV’s, and iPhones suppress the hormone which regulates sleep, melatonin.
Get up instead of tossing and turning: You want to keep your bedroom associated with sleep rather than being awake. So if you are tossing and turning, get up and do a relaxing activity until you feel tired again. Then try and go back to sleep.
To offset some of the inevitable lack of sleep when things get way too busy and remember to:
- resist the urge to skip brushing before bed.
- remember to eat foods that help teeth stay strong and
- floss at least once per day
- squeeze in a nap when possible