The Sleep Sleuth: Are You and Your Family Getting Quality Sleep?
Or maybe the more important question is, are you and your partner getting a good night’s sleep? For many first-time parents, sleep is the holy grail. However, as babies grow up and families settle into a sleep routine, we tend to lose our passion for a good night’s rest.
I became involved with dental sleep medicine as a hospital dentist more than 20 years ago when I was working with sleep physicians to help their patients suffering from obstructive sleep apnea. It’s a time that taught me how important sleep is and how your body suffers without it.
How to Know if You and Your Family Are Getting Quality Sleep
Sleep by Age
At different stages in our lives, we need different amounts of sleep. Check out this chart from the National Sleep Foundation and see if your family members are on the right track.
Normally, air passes through the nose and past the back of the throat without any trouble. But during sleep, as muscles relax, air passages can get too small and cause a vibration we know as snoring. The loud snorer in your house (or bed) may not be getting the amount of oxygen they need while sleeping. Ask them to try sleeping on their side and see if this calms those loud Zzzs. If not, it might be something to look into.
Sick from Sleeplessness?
Sleep is a physical and mental resting state with distinct phases that alternate in 90 to 110 minute cycles. A normal sleep pattern has 4 to 5 cycles per night. Nighttime breathing troubles can affect those cycles, throwing them off kilter and putting your health at risk. Sleep apnea, a disorder characterized by loud and frequent snoring, prevents airflow during sleep and can cause memory loss, morning headaches, irritability, depression, decreased sex drive, and impaired concentration. If a family member suffers from a combination of these, they may be at risk for sleep apnea.
Survey Says ...
There is a quick self-test you can do right now to judge if you are getting the right amount of quality sleep. The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a quick survey that ranks your sleepiness factor. Take the test for yourself and then share it with your spouse to see if you need to make an appointment with a sleep physician.
If you find there are sleep-related breathing issues in your house (or bed!), don’t panic. There are many options to treat sleep apnea and snoring and some are as comfortable and easy to wear as sports mouth guards. Visit a sleep physician, get an official prognosis, and then look up a dentist practicing dental sleep medicine in your area at LocalSleepDentist.com to discuss treatment options. And get your bed back on track for a good night’s sleep!
Do you or your partner suffer from lack of sleep? What have you done to fix the problem?
B. Gail Demko is president of the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine and is certified by the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine. She serves as the expert advisor to the Food & Drug Administration in the field of oral appliance therapy for the treatment of obstructive sleep apnea. Her practice, Sleep Apnea Dentists of New England, is located in Weston, MA.
Featured image courtesy of Flickr.