You snooze, you lose? Not according to science

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  Posted by: Dental Design      17th January 2024

How many of us acknowledge the true importance of a good night’s sleep? Sleep and health are closely correlated and fortunately our understanding of this has deepened over the decades. When sleep is poor, our health can deteriorate – when our health is poor, our sleep can deteriorate. Much of the population is stuck within this vicious cycle, and the impact it can have on not only systemic but also oral health is alarming.

The dental team are not sleep professionals, but if your patient is suffering from poor oral health that is impacting their sleep, or vice versa, it’s vital to be well-informed and provide relevant guidance.

The latest on sleep

 The importance of a good night’s sleep really can’t be overstated and interestingly, recent findings suggest that even regular daytime naps can be beneficial. Researchers found a ‘causual link between habitual napping and larger total brain volume’, and postulated that napping appears beneficial when performing certain cognitive tasks.[i] Further studies have assessed the impact of naps on cognitive function, finding links between short naps and memory consolidation and improvement.[ii]

Putting the research aside for a moment, many of us can simply feel the benefits that a good snooze can provide: we may feel more alert, refreshed and revitalised. Despite this, sleep is much harder to achieve for certain individuals. It’s believed that around 16 million UK adults struggle to sleep at night, with approximately 31% saying they have insomnia.[iii] But, of course, the true figure could be much higher as many individuals may not seek a formal diagnosis or even a medical opinion. Poor sleep, short sleep duration and early rising can contribute to a myriad of daytime complaints, such as fatigue, low mood, poor cognitive function and reduced attention.[iv] Interestingly, women seem to be more predisposed to insomnia compared to men,[v]with several theories ranging from hormones to social expectations, care duties and a higher predisposition to mood disorders.

Sleep and oral health

As you well know, there is a wide range of sleep disorders which affect the population. The linking symptom across them all – poor sleep – can have a drastic impact on a person’s oral health. Intriguing research concluded that mammalian sleep evolved to protect the animal from parasitic infection,[vi] and further studies postulate that sleep is a vital component which can modulate various physiological functions.[vii] It’s therefore believed that sleep can impact our immune response: a patient who is suffering from sleep deprivation may be at a high risk of developing gingival inflammation. Together, poor sleep and gingival inflammation can also increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases.[viii]

Oral health complications can, in turn, cause poor sleep. Temporomandibular disorders (TMDs) can impair sleep,[ix] while pain associated with gingivitis and periodontitis can also cause sleepless nights. For parents whose child is suffering from poor oral health, research suggests that this can not only disrupt the child’s sleep, but also that of their parents.[x] Sleep-disordered breathing can also massively impact the quality of one’s sleep, and dental sleep medicine is a rapidly-emerging field that is equipping professionals with the skills and knowledge needed to diagnose and treat such conditions.

Your patients may not be aware that their oral hygiene can affect the duration and quality of their sleep, and vice versa. In our busy, modern world, poor sleep can be an impediment to good health, and as a dental professional it’s important to provide patients with the right guidance. If your patient reports that they are experiencing sleepless nights due to oral pain, resulting from gingival disease for example, you can provide a tailored treatment plan to rectify the issue. To help patients maintain good oral hygiene practises while at home, you could consider recommending easy-to-use tools, like a Waterpik® Water Flosser, which is clinically-proven to be twice as effective as string floss for reducing gingival bleeding.[xi] The solution is also an effective alternative to subgingival antibiotics for periodontal maintenance.[xii] Needed for only one minute a day in order to feel the benefits, your patients will appreciate this effective oral hygiene tool that fits seamlessly in their at-home oral hygiene routines.

Promoting a good night’s sleep

The causes of a poor night’s sleep are manifold, but if it’s dental-related, the dental team is in a prime position to provide the right guidance and support. All patients deserve the benefits that come with good oral hygiene, which includes a night of undisturbed slumber.

For more information on Waterpik® Water Flosser products visit Waterpik® products are available from Amazon, Costco UK, Argos, Boots, Superdrug and Tesco online and in stores across the UK and Ireland.

Join the 3,000+ dental teams who have already benefitted from a professional Waterpik Lunch & Learn. Book your free session for 1 hour of verifiable CPD and a free Waterpik Water Flosser – available either face to face or as a webinar – at

Alison Reid RDH GDC 5615 

Qualified from Dundee dental hospital with dip dental hygiene 1999

Qualified dental nurse NEBN 

Scotvec Assessor for dental nurses 

Professional educator for WaterPik

During my career I have worked in varying sectors of dentistry from NHS, community care/hospital,  Private and corporate.  My career has allowed me travel from my home area of Inverness in the Scottish Highlands to London. My strong passion for dentistry is to help support not only my patient’s journeys but also colleagues including trainees newly qualified and qualified a like. My aim is to encouraged and support others by my own development passing on skills and knowledge.

[i] Paz, V., Dashti, H.S. and Garfield, V. (2023). Is there an association between daytime napping, cognitive function, and brain volume? A Mendelian randomization study in the UK Biobank. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[ii] Leong, R.L.F., Lo, J.C. and Chee, M.W.L. (2022). Systematic review and meta-analyses on the effects of afternoon napping on cognition. Sleep Medicine Reviews, [online] 65, p.101666. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[iii] AVIVA (2017). Sleepless cities revealed as one in three adults suffer from insomnia. [online] Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[iv] Riemann, D., Benz, F., Dressle, R.J., Espie, C.A., Johann, A.F., Blanken, T.F., Leerssen, J., Wassing, R., Henry, A.L., Kyle, S.D., Spiegelhalder, K. and Van Someren, E.J.W. (2022). Insomnia disorder: State of the science and challenges for the future. Journal of Sleep Research, [online] 31(4). Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[v] Zeng, L.-N., Zong, Q.-Q., Yang, Y., Zhang, L., Xiang, Y.-F., Ng, C.H., Chen, L.-G. and Xiang, Y.-T. (2020). Gender Difference in the Prevalence of Insomnia: A Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies. Frontiers in Psychiatry, [online] 11. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[vi] Preston, B.T., Capellini, I., McNamara, P., Barton, R.A. and Nunn, C.L. (2009). Parasite resistance and the adaptive significance of sleep. BMC Evolutionary Biology, [online] 9(1), p.7. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[vii] Ibarra-Coronado, E.G., Pantaleón-Martínez, A.Ma., Velazquéz-Moctezuma, J., Prospéro-García, O., Méndez-Díaz, M., Pérez-Tapia, M., Pavón, L. and Morales-Montor, J. (2015). The Bidirectional Relationship between Sleep and Immunity against Infections. Journal of Immunology Research, [online] 2015, pp.1–14. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[viii] Carra, M.C., Schmitt, A., Thomas, F., Danchin, N., Pannier, B. and Bouchard, P. (2016). Sleep disorders and oral health: a cross-sectional study. Clinical Oral Investigations, [online] 21(4), pp.975–983. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[ix] Lei, J., Yap, A.U., Zhang, M. and Fu, K. (2021). Temporomandibular disorder subtypes, emotional distress, impaired sleep, and oral health‐related quality of life in Asian patients. Community Dentistry and Oral Epidemiology, [online] 49(6), pp.543–549. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[x] Quadri, M.F.A., Jaafari, F.R.M., Mathmi, N.A.A., Huraysi, N.H.F., Nayeem, M., Jessani, A., Tadakamadla, S.K. and Tadakamadla, J. (2021). Impact of the Poor Oral Health Status of Children on Their Families: An Analytical Cross-Sectional Study. Children, [online] 8(7), p.586. Available at: [Accessed 25 Jun. 2023].

[xi] Rosema NAM et al. The effect of different interdental cleaning devices on gingival bleeding. J Int Acad Periodontol 2011; 13(1):2-10.

[xii] Genovesi AM, Lorenzi C, Lyle DM et al. Minerva Stomatol 2013; 62(Suppl. 1 to NO. 12):1-9. Study conducted at the Tuscan Stomatologic Institute, Department of Dentistry, Versilia General Hospital, Lido di Camaiore (LU), Italy

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