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Ever wondered why you feel hungry when you don’t get enough sleep? Lack of sleep causes dysregulation of ghrelin and leptin – hormones that control your appetite and fullness. This imbalance can disrupt the body’s natural regulatory mechanisms to stop eating. More negative effects caused by consistent sleep deprivation include an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, obesity, diabetes, cognitive and immune dysfunction, as well as anxiety and depression.

Understanding the culprit

“One of the causes of insufficient or poor quality sleep is obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA),” explains Dr Elaine Ng, a practitioner of Dental Sleep Medicine – the study of anatomical features, clinical signs, sleep medicine and sleep physiology – at Smilefocus.

The condition, characterised by repeated interruptions in breathing during sleep due to a partial or complete blockage of the airway, has been rising in prevalence globally. “Modern lifestyles are often hectic and fast-paced, and sleep is given last priority. Students and working adults are sleep deprived more than ever, and the rate of obesity is increasing,” says Dr Ng.

Today, however, it is becoming more difficult to identify a obstructive sleep apnoea patient. The condition was previously thought to be more common in overweight, middle-aged male patients. Yet in recent years, a new group of patients is emerging – ones who are slimmer, younger, and female, explains Dr Ng. “Did you know that 13 percent of patients who have the condition may not snore at all? And up to 50 percent do not experience daytime tiredness. The fact that this condition can occur so insidiously, makes it all the more a priority for healthcare workers to be aware of the condition in order to identify patients at risk.”

How your dentist at Smilefocus can help

Dr Ng explains that dentists have sound knowledge of head and neck anatomy, growth of the face and jaws, and operate in the space that directly affects the upper airways. Patients most regularly go for dental checkups, and more often than not, their oral cavity is where dentists can first pick up the signs and symptoms of many medical conditions such as obstructive sleep apnoea during routine examinations.

At Smilefocus, Dr Ng has established an effective and comprehensive sleep screening programme to help patients of all ages suffering from conditions affecting their breathing and sleep-wake cycles. Recognising the subtle signs of obstructive sleep apnoea is the first step, and learning to identify these red flags and seeking help will lead to earlier detection and intervention. Here, Dr Ng lists a few top ones:

–       Sleepless nights, plus fatigue and lack of focus during the day

–       Snoring, gasping, and snorting in the night are signs that warrant further investigation

–       Conditions such as asthma, acid reflux and unexplained high blood pressure are often observed in patients with sleep breathing disorders

–       Bruxism or tooth grinding can be observed in a high percentage of sleep apnoea patients

Undiagnosed obstructive sleep apnoea isn’t just a serious health risk – it can affect your daily function, and mental and emotional state, which can negatively impact both your professional and personal life. Through advanced diagnostics and personalised treatment, Dr Ng works with a network of sleep trained professionals to ensure that patients receive complete multidisciplinary care. Smilefocus is utilising technology to ensure our patients and their families achieve optimal sleep quality and lifelong health. Contact Dr Ng at Smilefocus to discover more.

Dr Elaine Ng B.D.S. has practiced at Smilefocus for the last 18 years and has been a dental sleep medicine practitioner since 2008. She is a member of the Australasian Sleep Association and the American Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine.

You can find Smilefocus at #08-02/03 and #08-07/08 Camden Medical Centre, 1 Orchard Boulevard

6834 0877 | smilefocus.com.sg