There is a weird benefit to nighttime "mouth taping" that you should know about.
If you're like most people, the idea of taping your mouth shut while you sleep might sound a little crazy and maybe even scary. But as it turns out, mouth taping might just be the key to a restful night of sleep and so much more.
Helping your body nose breathe (rather than mouth breathe) during the night accomplishes a goal you might not even know exists. It greatly increases the amount of nitric oxide circulating in your blood, which has a range of benefits.
Why nitric oxide production is so important to your health
Nitric oxide is a molecule that occurs naturally in your body and plays a bunch of important roles in your health. There are two basic ways nitric oxide gets to your blood. The first is by eating nitrate-rich foods, like nutrient-rich vegetables, and the second is through the various ways your body creates its own nitric oxide, mainly exercise and nose breathing. While you have control over your diet throughout much of your life, your body's natural ability to produce nitric oxide through exercise and nose breathing decreases as you age. That's why it's vitalto develop good nose-breathing habits as early as possible—and not allow your body to fall into bad patterns again.
Science tells us that some of the major drawbacks of decreased nitric oxide from mouth breathing include:
Worsened vascular (heart) function High blood pressure Drop in cognitive function Decreased immune function Increased inflammation
On the other hand, improving your nitric oxide intake can help to not only improve your heart function, blood pressure, cognitive function, immunity, and inflammation but also:
Athletic performance Weight loss Digestion Neuropathic pain Anxiety and depression
Are you a nighttime breather? Here are a few ways to tell:
The kicker here is that most people who mouth breathe at night don't realize it's happening.
Mouth breathing can be a silent, slow-moving detriment to your oral and overall health. No matter how much you practice nose breathing throughout the day, you could still be mouth breathing at night without knowing it.
Recognize any of these things happening to you on a regular basis? If the answer is yes, you might be a closet mouth breather:
Getting up in the middle of the night to pee Tossing and turning through the night Nasty breath in the morning Snoring Gingivitis and or bleeding gums Signs of teeth grinding Cavities Drool on your pillow
If you know you have some form of sleep-disordered breathing, like sleep apnea, it's almost certain you're mouth breathing through the night. Let's talk about your sleeping and breathing patterns at your next appointment.
Our dental patients should know why we are listening (and looking) closer for the telltale signs that they may not be sleeping well.
It’s a typical day on the job: we see several patients, observe and clean their teeth and get them ready to see Dr. Clark. As we're cleaning one patient’s mouth, something seems a little off. We notice that they have a smaller mouth and a normal size tongue, and it’s difficult to see past their soft palate as they say “Ahhhh.” When we ask the patient about their week, they complain that they’ve been feeling tired and haven’t been sleeping well at night. We've experienced patients with a similar story and appearance before. What’s the connection?
Research shows that 24.1% of patients are more likely to visit their dentist than their physician for an annual exam, which places a responsibility on us to be knowledgeable about the oral signs that may be indicative of a larger health condition.
Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is a common disorder that affects 20-30% of adults. It is also the most common undiagnosed sleep disorder and chronic disease in Western society, with up to 80 percent of people that suffer from moderate to severe OSA unaware of their condition.
This is important considering untreated OSA can take up to 20 years off of your lifespan. It ages your body, wreaks havoc on your immune and cardiovascular system, and dramatically decreases quality of life.
OSA sufferers often experience an inability to concentrate or focus on everyday tasks because they experience repeated microarousals, which eliminate the opportunity to have complete restorative sleep cycles. They also can experience morning headaches, clenching and grinding, and dry mouth, which can have a severe negative impact on dental health and overall wellness.
Additionally, the disorder is linked to a number of comorbidities, including cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke and even Alzheimer’s. Those that suffer from OSA are two times more likely to get into a car wreck, as sleep apnea causes a decrease in cognitive functioning.
Sleep apnea can originate in the throat, which makes us the front line in detection of the physical signs that a patient may suffer from if they have OSA. Many patients with sleep apnea DO NOT experience the tell tale symptoms they have heard about; snoring, daytime fatigue, witnessed cessations of breathing during sleep, high blood pressure, and waking from sleep with a gasp or choking sound. Instead of focusing only on these subjective symptoms, the easiest way to gauge risk of obstructive sleep apnea is to look in the mouth…
What we look for: signs and symptoms
Patients with OSA display many symptoms that can be observed simply by looking into the mouth. The MOST predictive signs include:
Small or recessed chin
Eroded enamel / Clenching and Grinding
Mallampati Classification of III or IV
Other signs we assess that are correlated with OSA include:
Narrow Arch or Small Mouth
If any of these signs are observed, or we note other symptoms that may be indicative of sleep apnea (for example, if the patient is obese or complains of a dry mouth), we often ask follow-up questions, including:
Do you snore?
Do you wake during the night for any reason? Is it 4 hours into your sleep cycle?
Do you feel well rested after getting a full night of sleep?
Patients who confirm these symptoms should be further assessed. Dentists and dental hygienists can use screening tools for early detection of risk factors. If, after screening, we believe that a patient displays signs of sleep apnea, it is our responsibility to educate our patient and provide them the support they need to get tested.
OSA is not just overweight or older people who snore loudly, it's young otherwise healthy people who just have too much soft tissue (tongue, tonsils, soft palate) in the throat.
Each Downtown Dental patient (as well as those referred to Downtown Dental by their medical doctors) are provided with a sleep consultation appointment to discuss all the risks, and benefits associated with proper treatment of OSA. Based on the medical doctor recommendation along with our own assessments, we will follow the best approach to a customized, comprehensive treatment plan with ongoing care.
Whether it’s the occasional night of too-little sleep or the larger, more chronic sleep debt so many people face, the brain and body are severely compromised by the effects of sleep deprivation, and we are committed to helping our patients understand and treat these challenges.
With that in mind, it feels like a good time for a check-in about ways sleep deprivation can interfere with your health, your safety, your relationships, and your performance. Here are four major areas that are affected when you don't get enough sleep.
You gain weight.
Poor sleep isn’t the only factor in weight gain, of course—there are several, including your genetics, your diet and exercise habits, your stress, and your health conditions. But the evidence is overwhelming: when sleep goes down, weight goes up.
And it doesn’t take a long time, or a lot of sleep deprivation, to bring the weight on. A fascinating study from researchers at the University of Colorado found that one week of sleeping about 5 hours a night led participants to gain an average of 2 pounds.
We also know that even after a moderate amount of sleep deprivation, you’re likely to eat more the next day. And lack of sleep makes you more likely to eat more of your overall calories at night, which can lead to weight gain.
2. You look, and feel, older.
We don’t know anyone—man or woman—who wants to look and feel older than they are. Getting plenty of sleep is one way to help prevent that. Sleep is "nature's botox", and here's why:
During sleep—particularly during deep, slow-wave sleep, the body produces more human growth hormone, or HGH, and goes to work repairing and refreshing cells throughout the body—including cells of the skin, muscles, and bone. Short on sleep, you risk losing out on this important rejuvenation—and it’s going to show in how you look and feel.
Losing strength and mass in muscles and bones can affect everything from your posture to your flexibility to your ability to exercise and be active, to how well you heal after injury. To stay looking and feeling youthful, we need our muscles and bones strong and ready to work for us—and they need sleep to do that work.
3. Your risk for accident and injury goes through the roof.
Whether you’re at home, on the job, on the sports field or behind the wheel, when sleep deprived you’re at much higher risk for accident and injury: research that shows howinsomnia is a major risk factor for accidental death.
The effects on the brain from sleep deprivation are in many ways similar to the effects of drinking too much alcohol—yet drowsy driving still doesn’t get nearly the attention as drunk driving. Some of the latest research from AAA shows drivers who slept even 1 hour less than they typically do are at significantly higher risk for motor-vehicle crashes. And the more sleep deprivation piles on, the higher the crash risk goes. The study found drivers who slept less than 4 hours the night before had more than 11 times the crash rate as drivers who slept 7 or more hours a night.
The workplace becomes much less safe when you’re sleep deprived. According to the National Sleep Foundation, highly sleep-deprived workersare 70 percent more likely to be in work-related accidents than well rested workers.
Accident risks are often talked about in relation to obstructive sleep apnea—and it’s true, that the presence of OSA raises significantly your risk of accident and injury. But NOT having OSA doesn’t protect you against accidental injury, if you’re not getting enough sleep. No matter how your sleep is disrupted or cut short, you’re more vulnerable to accidents.
4. You don’t heal as quickly from illness and injury.
Your risks for coming down with an illness are greater when you’re sleep deprived, and it will take you longer to recover. There’s brand new research that suggests sleep is more important than nutrition to healing. The study is particularly interesting because the scientists set out to test how a nutritional boost might speed wound healing, even in the presence of sleep deprivation. Instead, they found it was sleep that really accelerated healing—and a lack of sleep slowed it down. This is consistent with other research showing that sleep deprivation slows the healing process.
Sleep has a powerful effect on the immune system, so it’s not just wound healing, but all forms of recovery from illness, injury, and disease that are affected by sleep.
If you’re sleep deprived, you not only weaken your immune system, but you also deprive yourself of the time when body naturally does some of its best work to heal and repair itself.
Remember, when you’re sleep deprived, you’re not just facing one of these issues: you’re more than likely grappling with all of them. Think about that the next time you’re tempted to shortchange your sleep because something else seems more important.
Are you struggling with snoring and sleeplessness? Your next visit at Downtown Dental could be the key to jump stary your healing. Snoring and sleep disturbances are often signs of obstructive sleep apnea, and your oral health could be to blame.