Is Sleep Really that Important?

Are you one of those people that can burn the candle at both ends, working and playing hard with very little sleep?  Or are you one of those people who wake up tired and wonder when you can sleep again?

What is the point of sleep?

Sleep is an extremely therapeutic and restorative state.  Our body undergoes many stressors throughout the day.  Exercise, work, thinking and eating all put stress on the body.  These stresses cause damage to our cells.  If our cells don’t repair themselves and replicate, our body will not be as strong or as healthy over time.

The restorative process of sleep allows protein synthesis to occur, this repairs tissues and muscle if they have been worn or broken down during our daily activity.  It also allows certain hormones to release that can repair and restore cells in the body.

Our brain and central nervous system also builds up a lot of toxic byproducts during the day and these byproducts are cleaned out of the system during sleep.  Also, sleep helps you convert your short term memories into longer term memories.

Sleep also helps in your emotional wellbeing, weight maintenance and proper insulin function.  Your heart health is also dependent on good sleep patterns.

I think I sleep well but always wake up tired.

Some people suffer from conditions that affect the quality of your sleep.   Snoring and sleep apnoea can affect your proper circadian and sleep rhythms to such an extent but you may not be aware of it.  If you feel tired constantly or you suspect you may suffer from sleep apnoea, it is best to have it checked out properly.

What happens if I don’t get enough good quality sleep?

If you consistently get not enough or poor quality sleep, your body will start to show signs that it needs more sleep.  Sleepiness is the most common, however, other signs like poor memory, irritability , increased apetite, etc will start to present and progress.

What are the long term effects of poor sleep?

Over time one’s body would have tried to adapt to the lack of sleep however, there comes a time when it just can’t handle anymore and your signs will become symptoms of more severe illnesses.  Some of these are high blood pressure, weight gain, diabetes, forgetfulness, etc.

After a lifetime of lack of sleep, one may have severe heart disease and advanced diabetes.  These are conditions that are chronic and really do affect your whole body over time.

Suffering for an extended period of time with poor sleep can even shorten your life by 15 years! That’s a huge part of your life that could be wasted.

What should I do if I think I suffer from poor sleep conditions?

Firstly, clean up your sleeping act.  Create the best environment in which to sleep (no blue light before bed, keep the temperature of the room at 19 degrees celcius, have white noise device to drown out other noises, etc).  If you’ve tried these but to no avail, look for a practitioner who could help assess whether you have conditions such as sleep apnoea.  Your dentist may be able to help or you could see a sleep doctor.

Normal airway on the left and obstructed airway of sleep apnoea on the right.

At Enamel Dentistry we are trained in the detection and treatment of sleep apnoea.  Our interest in holistic dentistry includes the health of your body too.  As dentists, we work with your head and neck routinely so we feel it fitting to be able to help with sleep apnoea and appliances to help combat this condition.  If you have problems sleeping due to snoring, or waking yourself up or even stopping breathing, we can help you!

Schedule your appointment for sleep management now at Enamel Dentistry, Cape Town.

By Dr Sheryl Smithies

Associate Dentist at Enamel Dentistry