If you could only do one thing to improve your overall health, have more energy, and reduce your risk for chronic illness and even Alzheimer’s disease (AD), what would it be? While good nutrition and exercise help keep your body and mind sound through the years to come, an absolutely essential part of continued good health is getting a good night’s sleep. At South County Sleep Solutions, Dana J. Rockey, DMD, treats breathing disorders — such as snoring and sleep apnea — that interrupt your sleep and put you at risk for life-threatening conditions, including heart attack and stroke. Here’s why sleep is your best bet for preserving your health.

Sleep disturbance affects your brain

All of the organs in your body — including your brain — need sufficient hours of restorative sleep so they can get rid of toxins and repair damage. In one study, adults who had trouble sleeping or used sleep medications had a 23% greater chance of developing dementia or AD than those who slept for 7-8 hours per night.

Adults who don’t sleep well show evidence of nerve damage in their hippocampus, a part of the brain that plays a major role in both learning and memory. Even before permanent damage appears, chronic sleepiness can affect how well your brain works during the day, leading to symptoms such as:

  • Confusion
  • Depression
  • Trouble focusing
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Being accident prone
  • Falling asleep at the wheel

Between our culture’s emphasis on work, and the devices and electric lights that keep us awake for hours longer than is healthy for our brains and body, adults and teenagers can suffer the cognitive impact of sleep deprivation.

Sleep disturbance saps your energy

Even if old age and dementia seem too far in your future to worry about, not getting enough sleep affects every aspect of your health and fitness level. After a good night of restorative rest, you should be mentally alert and physically raring to go.

Lack of sleep affects your athletic performance, too. You might not feel motivated to work out because you didn’t get enough sleep to push yourself to the limit. You also take longer to recover from a workout because your body isn’t getting the rest and repair it needs.

Serious medical conditions that are associated with sleep apnea include:

  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Cancers
  • Heart disease
  • Eye disorders
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Kidney disease
  • Metabolic disorders

And, once you have a chronic health condition, your sleep could be impaired even more.

Do you forget to breathe while you sleep?

If you wake up feeling groggy and need multiple cups of coffee to keep you going throughout the day, you could have a breathing disorder that interferes with your sleep. A serious condition called sleep apnea stops you from breathing multiple times a night. You may snore, gag, choke, or wake up struggling to get a breath.

If you have central sleep apnea, your brain actually “forgets” to signal your body to breathe while you sleep. If you have the more common obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), your airway compresses while you sleep, cutting off your oxygen for seconds at a time. Some people have a combination of central and obstructive sleep apnea.

The risk for OSA increases as you age, and as you gain weight. Obesity is strongly associated with OSA.

Other physical factors that might be impairing your breathing and causing OSA are:

  • Enlarged tonsils
  • A thick or enlarged tongue
  • A recessed jaw
  • A deviated nasal septum
  • A thick neck

Not sure whether you breathe at night or not? If you snore, you may have sleep apnea. If you wake up in the middle of the night gagging or choking, you almost certainly have sleep apnea and should get evaluated by a sleep specialist.

The doctor orders sleep

To optimize your health, , and reduce your risk for AD and other forms of dementia, Dr. Rockey recommends a good night’s sleep. Every night.

If you have symptoms of sleep apnea, if you snore, or if you have trouble feeling energized and focused during the day, he may order a sleep test. If you have OSA, he custom designs an oral appliance that prevents your jaw and tongue from blocking your airway while you sleep.

Get the restorative sleep you need to function at your peak by calling our office in Newport Beach, California, for a sleep evaluation or OSA treatment. You can also use our convenient online booking form. We do telehealth appointments, too.