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Sleep and Oral Health: The Stages and Importance Of Sleep

Sleep, we sometimes tend to believe, is not necessary – a complete waste of time and an excuse for unproductivity. This is quite similar to what InterActiveCorp (IAC) CEO Joey Levin told Business Insider at its annual flagship conference IGNITION. According to Levin, sleep is something that you can do later as there are other activities and events that are more important. The IAC CEO admitted that sleep ranks relatively low in his priority list despite acknowledging the necessity of sleep in everyday function. (Like the fact that sleep and oral health have close relations, and if one isn’t up-to-par, the other can take a hit as well.)

We cannot bat an eyelid at Levin because, like him, we sometimes neglect it. More than 35 percent of American adults reported sleeping less than seven hours during a typical 24-hour period.

However, this is a big mistake. It’s been proven time and time again that sleep is integral in many aspects of our lives. We will discuss the effects of sleep and oral health after talking about the different stages of sleep and what they do.

Slipping into Dreamland: The Stages

But sleep, like food and water, is essential to our well-being.

We devote around 30 percent of our lives sleeping – something that scientists’ years of research has yet to find out why. The endorsed number of hours of daily sleep is seven to eight hours.

When we drift into a peaceful slumber, our body goes through five different stages of sleep every 90 to 110 minutes.

Stage #1: Introduction

The first stage usually takes a minute to seven minutes. This is the stage when our eyelids become heavy, and our head starts to drop as the brain produces alpha and theta waves. Alpha waves are the link between conscious and subconscious thinking, while theta waves are connected to our deep and raw emotions.

Called “introduction into sleep,” the first stage is quite brief and involves the slowing down of the brain activity. It is in this stage where the muscle begins to relax. Because stage one doesn’t involve deep sleep, you’re prone to waking up, say, when you hear a small noise.

Stage #2: Beginning

The second stage is the “beginning of sleep,” which also involves slowing down the brain and muscle activity. When you are woken up in this stage, you become quickly alert and can engage in conversation easily.

Stage #3 & #4: Slow Wave

During the third and fourth stage or the “slow-wave sleep,” deep sleep begins. The brain will start to produce delta waves which are the slowest recorded brain waves in humans. This type of wave decreases as we age. At this stage, the body becomes less receptive to outside stimuli. This is also the stage where the body restores muscles and tissues, invigorates growth and development, enhances immune function, and builds energy. Knowing this, you can probably begin to better understand the linkage between sleep and oral health.

Stage #5: Rapid Eye Movement

The final stage is the rapid eye movement sleep or REM sleep stage. You will enter this stage after about 90 minutes of initially falling asleep. Each REM stage can persist up to an hour with an average adult having about five to six REM cycles a night. In this stage, the brain is more lively, and dreaming occurs. It is called rapid eye movement sleep because the eyes move quickly in different directions. Aside from the eyes, the heart rate and blood pressure increase, breathing becomes fast, irregular, and shallow.

The stages of sleep are not constant and may occur at different durations depending on one’s age and other factors.

Getting our Zzzz: The Importance

When we slip into dreamland for at least seven to eight hours, we protect our mental and physical health, quality of life, and safety.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, our waking state greatly depends on our sleep the night before. A good night’s sleep helps leads to healthy brain function and better emotional well-being. These, in turn, allow us to think, work, react, socialize, and learn better.

When you sleep, you allow your body to recuperate, repair the heart and blood vessels, decrease the likelihood of obesity, maintain the right balance of hormones, improve the body’s reaction to insulin, support growth & development, and keep the immune system healthy.

Sleep and Oral Health: There’s a Close Link

Good quality sleep, at least seven to eight hours, also helps you achieve your most beautiful smile by warding off gum diseases and lessens the likelihood of bad breath, dry mouth, and canker sores.

According to research, sleep follows smoking as the most influential factor that increases the risk of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease or gum disease is an infection of the surrounding tissues and supporting bones of the teeth which are classified as either gingivitis or periodontitis. Gum disease causes gum inflammation and bleeding gums. Worst case periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and damage to the bones and tissues.

When we do not get the right amount of sleep, our immune system can weaken, and oral bacteria can invade our mouth at a pace that our immune system cannot keep up. Bacteria can build up and lead to plaque and canker sores.

Canker sores are small, center lesions that usually appear on the soft tissues of the mouth or the base of the gums that can cause discomfort especially when speaking or eating. Stress and a weak immune system can attribute to the occurrence of the sores.

Aside from brushing and flossing, a good night’s sleep is essential in keeping our oral health in check. With a peaceful slumber, we will be more active, less stressed, and our body can function correctly. So, get your snooze on.

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