How to fall back in love with your bed

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We all know it’s important to get our beauty sleep, but did you know that 69% of us are losing out on quality rest? Visiting Professor Simon Ash has the science and the appliance that can help

Sleep is essential for our good health. Without it, we fail to function properly and our bodies suffer, which can lead to some serious long-term illnesses.

According to recent statistics, around 31% of us sleep less than six hours at night while 69% are considered to have insufficient sleep. The Royal Society for Public Health recently revealed that some of us are missing out on as much as one full night every week.

Lack of slumber has been found to impact the activation of the immune system, inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism and the hormones that regulate appetite and of late, blood vessels. These finding have prompted scientists to suggest that health education should focus on the significance of good, sufficient sleep as well as the usual good diet and exercise messages in a bid to help prevent common diseases.

A study last year — Sleep: A Global Perspective1 — highlighted sleep trends and habits round the world and found that 61% of Brits felt they needed seven to nine hours each night to be at their most productive.

So, if night-time rest is so precious, what can be done for those of us who suffer a sleep disturbance that cannot simply be fixed with a change in those lifestyle habits that often put paid to a good night’s snooze?

Among those of us cheated out of sufficient rest periods are an estimated 30% of adults who snore (this increases to 60% once we hit 60). Problem snoring is more frequent in males and overweight people and may be an indication of obstructed breathing so should not be taken lightly.

For those heavy and frequent snorers, it may be wise to seek screening, diagnosis and treatment of sleep apnoea — 5% of the UK adult population are thought to have undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnoea, amounting to some 2.5 million people.

It’s also been estimated that up to 30% of adults will experience temporomandibular joint and muscle disorders (TMJDs) in their lifetime. This is especially common in patients who have sleep related breathing disorders i.e. snoring and obstructive sleep apnoea. The most common cause of which is bruxism (grinding), or clenching of the teeth during sleep.

It’s no wonder so many of us can feel like zombies at times with snoring, sleep apnoea and TMJD all proving to be very real challenge for many of us.

Visiting Professor Simon Ash knows all about sleep disturbances and dental sleep medicine. As a consultant and specialist orthodontist with more than 30 years clinical experience, he has a special interest in sleep-related breathing disorders, TMJD and bruxism and currently works in Harley Street and two private hospitals in London as part of a multi-disciplinary team managing snoring and sleep apnoea.

He explains: ‘Patients who have these sleep issues are very often looking for various treatment solutions but also have a fear of the unknown even though mouth-breathing, jaw parafunction or bruxism can present huge challenges in their everyday lives.

‘The area of TMD has always been confusing and unpredictable so earlier in my career I avoided this area of dentistry until I suddenly noticed amazing results treating patients with functional orthodontic devices and the Somnowell mandibular advancement device.

‘As an NHS consultant in teaching hospitals, I had the opportunity to work with other medical and dental specialities to treat really challenging patients. I began to realise that few orthodontists were involved with sleep medicine when there was an explosion in interest and demand. Working with multi-discipline teams in ENT and chest medicine was stimulating and was clearly best practice with excellent outcomes.

‘I worked with an oral and maxillofacial consultant specialising in TMD and we agreed effective management protocols and treatments wherever we could, thus avoiding surgery.

‘The mandibular advancement approach to sleep-related breathing disorders is a well-established method. However, the previous devices were not addressing the chronic long-term nature of the condition. Patient compliance is resolved where comfort and hygiene are paramount. After all, patient care is the end goal. They often have the answers but may not express their needs and aspirations in technical terms. Being empathetic and a good listener are essential qualities. I really enjoy the face to face patient-clinician interface and we can learn so much if we only communicate and listen.

‘Remember: the key is not to lose faith. You must appreciate the chronic long-term nature of these conditions and a quick fix is likely to be disappointing.

‘My number one piece of advice for patients who are seeking treatments is to seek expert professional help and go for reversible non-surgical approaches wherever possible. Also be prepared to have a consultation with an experienced professional.'

Sleep survey report pdf

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