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The annoying things that wake us up in the night – and what to do about them

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Poor sleep can increase the risk of obesity, depression, dementia and more. So how can we ensure our eight hours go uninterrupted?

Teeth grinding

Teeth grinding, also called bruxism, is often related to stress or anxiety, so it’s worth addressing any underlying issues that could be making you feel tense. Taking certain medications, including SSRI antidepressants can also increase nighttime teeth grinding. As ever, practising good sleep hygiene will help: ensure you get to bed at a similar time each night and spend some time winding down before bed.

But it’s also worth visiting your dentist. “Grinding is caused by having imbalanced teeth,” explains dentist Dr Sam Jethwa. “If your bite doesn’t fit 100 per cent perfectly – because of a tooth shape or an awkward filling or a crown – your jaw will try in the night to grind that away.” Dr Jethwa recommends trying to find a restorative dentist with experience with bite, as the danger of, for example, just coming away with a soft mouthguard, is that it tricks the brain into thinking there is something in the mouth it needs to chew – which can increase muscle tension, which can make grinding worse. Dr Jethwa also routinely administers Botox into the masseter muscles of heavy grinders, which reduces the intensity of the clenching – although he says it’s worth trying to fix the bite imbalance to address the underlying problem.

Simpler help could be at hand: Swiss healthcare company Aesyra has just developed a mouthguard and bracelet combination designed to address grinding: pressure sensors are embedded in the mouthguard and when the wearer grinds their teeth, the sensors react and send a signal to the bracelet which vibrates; the bruxism can then be tracked, and during prototype testing, the kit was shown to reduce grinding by nearly 80 per cent – but it’s not available to buy yet.

Loud snoring

We’ve all woken up in the night to find ourselves lying tense with rage at the snoring partner next to us. But short of physically kicking them out of bed, what can we do about it? “Sleep apnoea [when your breathing stops and starts during sleep] is the number one cause of being woken up at night,” says Dr Jethwa.

The most common type is obstructive sleep apnoea – and snoring, gasping, snorting or choking can be an indication that you’re suffering from it, so first of all it’s worth investigating that. It might also be more common in the UK because of childhood orthodontic practice, where often, four teeth are taken out to make room in the mouth before putting braces on. That, says Dr Jethwa, narrows the arch of the mouth, making the palate narrower, restricting space for your tongue and also limiting breathing – hence the snoring.

If you don’t want to contemplate more orthodontic treatment, you can do other things to open up the airways: a dentist can help you with a device to hold the jaw open in a certain position at night. But sleep apnoea is also more common in the overweight, and those who smoke and drink heavily, so those are the first things to address.

Source: The Telegraph

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