Sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea affect your physical and mental health

3 minute read

Alongside a healthy diet and regular exercise, a good sleeping pattern is a foundation of good overall health and wellbeing. Not getting enough sleep can affect brain function and physical processes that help to rejuvenate the body and mind. Unfortunately, many people don’t get the restful sleep they need.

Sleep quality can be affected by stress, a hectic lifestyle, or bad habits such as going to bed late or too much screen time in the evening. Sleep disorders such as insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea can also prevent or interrupt sleep, causing sufferers to feel tired during the day and putting their health at risk.

If you’re concerned about your sleep or that of a loved one, you should talk to a health professional, who may recommend an evaluation. Sleep problems can be complex and may involve various treatments or therapies, some of which may be provided by your dentist.

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Benefits of sleep

Sleep is vital for helping your body and brain to function properly. Among other benefits, a good night’s sleep helps to:

  • Improve productivity, concentration and performance
  • Improve your immune response to help prevent infections
  • Lower your risk of health conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease and obesity
  • Lower your risk of mental health issues, such as depression
  • Lower your risk of accidents resulting from impaired concentration or reaction times, including motor vehicle accidents

Not getting enough sleep and good quality sleep every night can directly impact on your health, safety and quality of life.

How much sleep do I need?

Most adults need a minimum of 7 hours’ sleep every night, while children and babies require more. Recommendations for the right amount of sleep mainly vary by age.

Your doctor or sleep professional may have other recommendations, depending on your individual needs and risk profile.

How can I improve my sleep?

For many people, making small changes to their lifestyle and routine may be all it takes to improve the amount and quality of sleep they have. These steps can include:

  • Going to bed and waking up at the same time every day (including weekends)
  • Exercising or being physically active during the day
  • Finding the right mattress and pillows to suit your body and sleeping style
  • Making sure your bedroom is a comfortable temperature (between 15° to 19° celcuis)
  • Dimming lights in the evening to help regulate your body clock
  • Avoiding caffeine, alcohol and heavy meals in the evening
  • Avoiding phones, TVs and other screens in the evening (or at least an hour before bed) and keeping them out of the bedroom
  • Trying to avoid stress or anxiety

If you’re still not able to get the recommended amount of sleep every night, this could be a sign of a chronic sleep disorder, such as insomnia or obstructive sleep apnoea.

What is insomnia?

Insomnia – difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep – is the most common sleep disorder, affecting around one third of adults. Of these, 10% to 15% experience chronic insomnia, when the condition occurs on at least three nights per week for three months or longer.

Insomnia can have many possible causes, from bad bedtime habits to stress, anxiety or traumatic experiences. Insomnia may also be linked with or caused by another sleep disorder, most commonly obstructive sleep apnoea.

A sleep medicine specialist or doctor with training in sleep problems will aim to address the cause. This may involve lifestyle or dietary changes or seeing a counsellor or therapist for approaches such as cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

What is obstructive sleep apnoea?

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) occurs when the muscles in the throat relax, airways become blocked and breathing is interrupted during sleep. This can cause a person with OSA to wake up many times during the night, preventing them from achieving a restful sleep.

Around 1 in 10 Australians experience obstructive sleep apnoea. People with mild sleep apnoea may not know they have it, but in severe cases, breathing may be interrupted more than 30 times every hour each night.

Symptoms of sleep apnoea

Signs that you or a partner might have OSA include:

  • Loud snoring or breathing during sleep
  • Waking up choking, gasping or snorting
  • Morning headaches
  • Feeling tired and irritable during the day
  • Difficulties with memory or concentration

Anyone can be affected by sleep apnoea, but it’s most common in males over 40. Being overweight or having large tonsils, a small jaw or nasal obstructions can increase the risk of the airways becoming blocked. Tobacco, alcohol and sedatives are also risk factors for OSA and other sleep disorders.

Health risks of sleep apnoea

The effects of sleep deprivation and oxygen deprivation caused by obstructive sleep apnoea can increase the risk of developing serious health conditions, especially for chronic or long-term sufferers. These include:

  • cancer
  • depression
  • diabetes
  • glaucoma
  • heart disease
  • high blood pressure
  • stroke

Sleep apnoea can also contribute to dental issues such as teeth grinding (bruxism) and jaw problems such as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD).

If you’re waking up tired and with jaw pain, it could be a sign of OSA and TMJD. Speak to our team to see how we can help.

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How is sleep apnoea treated?

Like other sleep disorders, sleep apnoea is unlikely to go away on its own, but making changes to your lifestyle or routine such as going to bed earlier, getting more exercise, giving up smoking or trying to lose weight could reduce its severity.

In many cases though, OSA requires intervention from a dentist or doctor and sleep specialist. This may involve an overnight sleep study to determine the severity of the condition and recommend appropriate treatment options. These recommendations may include:

  • Mild to moderate OSA – Wearing a custom mouthguard known as a mandibular advancement device (MAD) at night to hold the airway open and prevent breathing obstructions
  • Severe OSA – Using a Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machine
  • Severe OSA – Surgery to remove an obstruction from the airways, such as large tonsils or excess tissue


Talk to a dentist in Kelmscott

Are you constantly getting a rough night’s sleep? Speak to our dentists at Kelmscott Dental who may be able to help.

Call our team today on (08) 9495 7999 to arrange a consultation or book online. We also welcome patients from Armadale, Gosnells and other nearby suburbs.

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