Sleep quality and measuring sleep are hot topics right now! What may behoove you to understand is that not all sleep tests measure sleep equally. Many have heard of sleep stages or sleep statistics without knowing their importance, benefit, or what actions can be taken. Discussing and assessing sleep health may be the dentist’s most important role, as no one has better or more regular access to evaluate the airway than dentists.
Sleep is the ultimate feedback loop on health and wellness.
Sleep has been termed the “vital sign of good health” by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and for a good reason. Sleep carries a fundamentally important and unique role in everyone’s lives. It is the only thing that humans spend a third of their lives doing. Sleep promotes good health through prevention and timely intervention, but also through healing. Everyone knows from personal experience how much we all crave sleep when we don’t feel well. Also, all parents understand the short-term consequences of tired children.
What you need to know and what you do not need to know about sleep.
Individuals do not need to understand the intricacies of NREM (non-rapid eye movement) and REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, as these are clinical terms. While self-intervention with lifestyle choices may improve sleep for the individual, there is a lot more involved. Sleep testing is a great place to start, as it determines a diagnosis and starts the conversation around treatment options. Since poor sleep contributes to poor health outcomes, this requires a consultation and collaboration with a healthcare provider.
However, what everyone needs to know are the three factors that constitute restorative sleep for mind and body. Then, take action on what you can to mitigate the consequences of poor sleep and leave the rest to professionals:
1. Allocate an adequate amount of time during every 24 hours to sleep.
2. Objectively measure sleep quality, meaning how much sleep is spent in restorative sleep.
3. Objectively measure what effect sleep apnea has on cardiovascular and metabolic health.
One and two are pretty self-explanatory, so let’s talk more about number three: Sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is just one of many sleep disorders linked to several health problems. It has been linked to cardiovascular stress and increased risk of hypertension, obesity, type 2 diabetes, and much more.
What may not be obvious is that sleep apnea can be fixed at the expense of sleep quality. This leads to the same adverse health outcomes as not treating sleep apnea in the first place. It’s very important to view sleep disorders in light of their chronic nature and treat them accordingly.
Nobody would attempt to treat diabetes or hypertension with one test and a lifetime of treatment, just hoping for results. These chronic conditions are managed over time through an interactive process of adjusting treatment (device or medication) based on a continuous feedback loop.
In sleep care, the key is to find the care that benefits the patient, is as non-intrusive as possible, and does not treat sleep apnea at the cost of sleep quality. This is where dental practitioners have an important role to play.
Sleep and Children
What is less well understood is the importance of sleep for healthy childhood growth and long-term development. The pediatric dentist is in a unique situation, as probably no other healthcare professional sees healthy children as often as the pediatric dentist. Therefore, it is very important that pediatric dentists have the expertise to assess airway development and offer solutions. The goal should be to maximize healthy growth of oral bone structure, mitigate potentially irreversible damage to the temporomandibular (TMJ), and ensure that every child is getting the sleep necessary for their health and development.
Sleep quality is a term that is used widely, and sometimes with little concrete meaning behind it. With the variety of sleep testing available, it has not been easy to compare one person’s sleep with another person’s sleep, like body weight and height or how blood pressure can be put into perspective.
SleepImage is a test of health during sleep. It has been thoroughly validated and FDA-cleared to objectively measure sleep with output that has been proven in clinical research to reflect health outcomes. The SleepImage Sleep Quality Index (SQI) is a unit of measure for sleep health that is easy to communicate to patients to help them understand the value and benefit of treatment. The SleepImage test uses a single-sensor device that is easy to apply and low-cost. Nevertheless, it has also proven to be comparable to scoring from polysomnography to evaluate sleep apnea, making this solution a very good fit for the dental sleep market.
SleepImage is a cloud-based software as a medical device that makes it easy for clinicians to practice collaborative care for patients. You can securely share test information across a team of multi-disciplinary care providers to provide the patient with quick, low-cost and accurate data to drive clinical management.
The sleep dentistry market will find that SleepImage makes it possible to practice first-class care, at low-cost. All based on outcomes that are not limited to paused breathing events, but includes cardiac stress from paused breathing, an objective measure of sleep duration, and sleep quality that has been associated with health outcomes.