What are the health benefits of sleep?

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  Posted by: Dental Design      25th May 2024

Sleep is crucial for maintaining both physical and mental wellbeing. Whilst many patients might understand that sleeping well and for long enough will help to reduce tiredness and improve concentration during the day, they may not realise the long-term implications that poor quality sleep can have on the body. As such, it’s important for health professionals to understand what makes a good night’s sleep, what factors might have a negative impact, and the long-term consequences on mental and physical wellbeing.

Importance of sleep for overall health

Sleep quality and duration can play more of a role in overall health than many realise. This is concerning as almost one in five people in the UK admit to not getting enough sleep.[i] Ideally, people should experience all four stages of non-REM and REM sleep each night.[ii] During non-REM sleep, blood pressure and heart rate fall as the parasympathetic system controls the body. During REM sleep and when waking up, on the other hand, the sympathetic system is activated leading to increased heart rate and blood pressure. Those who wake up frequently during the night, therefore, may experience spikes in heart rate and blood pressure and be at a higher risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, obesity, and stroke.[iii]

Sleep pattern can also have an influence on hormones, as different hormones are produced at different times during the day. Hormones which promote alertness, like cortisol, are produced in the morning as it helps with waking up. Other hormones, like testosterone, oestrogen, and progesterone, are made in pulses at night – with levels varying throughout a lifetime.iii

Sleep patterns can also have an effect on the way the body processes fat. For example, the circadian clock ensures that the liver is able to assist in the digestion of fat at the appropriate times. Research suggests that lack of sleep can influence the levels of hormones that control hunger, decrease ability to respond to insulin, lead to decreased physical activity, and have an effect on metabolism. As a result, poor sleep might mean that patients gain weight.iii

Further to this, the immune system might be compromised due to lack of sleep. This is because, during sleep, immune response is stronger. This might mean that those who don’t sleep enough are more prone to colds and infections. Sleep can also help with learning and forming memories, as such, poor sleep can make it more difficult to focus and think clearly.iii

Causes of poor sleep

There are a number of reasons why patients might be experiencing poor sleep. Often problems are caused by environmental issues, like noise at night-time or lights from screens, or life events that are causing stress or worry. Thinking can also have an impact, and those with anxiety often struggle to relax and fall asleep. Commonly, lifestyle factors can influence sleep quantity and quality too; with problems caused by irregular sleep routines, eating late, drinking alcohol or caffeine, exercising at night, or using smartphones and working shortly before bed.i

Additionally, breathing can have an impact on sleep quality. During sleep, breathing is less frequent and shallower. This means that less oxygen is taken in during the night. Whilst normal, this change can be problematic for those who have existing health problems including asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), as it may make it more difficult to breathe.iii

The impact of OSA

Similarly, patients who have obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) will experience interrupted sleep caused by disrupted breathing.[iv] In patients with OSA, the walls of the throat relax during sleep, causing the airway to become narrow. Not only does this lead to interrupted sleep, potentially causing the issues mentioned above, poorly controlled OSA may also increase the risk of hypertension, stroke, heart attack, irregular heartbeat, and type 2 diabetes (thought to be linked to obesity).iv

OSA patients are routinely prescribed CPAP treatment. However, CPAP machines are often uncomfortable and irritating, and may not be effective for patients who breathe through their mouth or have a blocked nose. Because of this, patients who use a CPAP machine may still experience poor sleep. OADS offers an alternative. O2Vent® is customised to fit each patient, helping to deliver a comfortable and discreet alternative. If there’s a blockage, the device draws in air through the device, allowing it to reach the back of the throat. Plus, the device stabilises the lower jaw, brings the tongue forward, and opens the airway, offering an effective treatment for OSA.

Good quality sleep is crucial for maintaining overall health. Whilst there are a number of potential reasons that a patient might be experiencing poor sleep quality, it’s important to offer them treatments which are appropriate for them, and effectively improve their situation. For patients who have existing medical conditions which effect their sleep, such as OSA, it is important to consider all of the potential treatment options to decide what is the best solution for them.


For more information, please visit: https://openairway.uk/



[i] Mental Health UK. Sleep and mental health. Accessed Feb 24. https://mentalhealth-uk.org/help-and-information/sleep/

[ii] Sleep Foundation. Why do we need sleep? Accessed Feb 24. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/why-do-we-need-sleep

[iii] National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Why is sleep important? Accessed Feb 24. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/sleep/why-sleep-important

[iv] NHS Inform. Obstructive sleep apnoea. Accessed Feb 24. https://www.nhsinform.scot/illnesses-and-conditions/lungs-and-airways/obstructive-sleep-apnoea

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