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May 26, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — Dr. J. Peter St. Clair, DMD @ 4:28 pm

Dental hygiene appointments will be allowed to start at the beginning of Phase 2 Monday, June 8th. Dentists have been allowed to see “emergent and likely to become emergent” patients since last week. Many of us have struggled to understand what that means exactly, but I think we are getting closer to “the new normal”.

Many people I have talked to have noticed a change in their sleep patterns in the past couple of months. Staying up later and getting up later has been the trend. Your body needs sleep and really needs consistent quality sleep. If you are going to bed later and getting up at the same time, meaning your total sleep time is less, has this impacted the way you feel the next day?

There are many reasons for poor quality sleep. Everything from a poor mattress, poor pillow, sleep position, medical issues, diet, alcohol consumption, work schedule, or a noisy bed partner can have an impact on the quality of sleep that we get. Although some people can notice subtle changes in sleep quality, many others do not realize that some of the issues they have routinely can be caused by poor sleep quality.

Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout our lives. The way you feel while you’re awake depends in part on what happens while you’re sleeping.

Sleep helps your brain work properly. Studies show that a good night’s sleep improves learning. Studies also show that sleep deficiency may cause you to have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change.

Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, sexual dysfunction, ADHD, obesity and depression.

Sleep issues can affect the young, the old, and everyone in between. The many changes that take place in our bodies as we age can increase the risk of sleep disorders.

Sleep apnea is one of many sleep disorders. It is a serious, potentially life-threatening sleep disorder that affects at least 18 million Americans. It comes from the Greek meaning of apnea which means “want of breath”. People with sleep apnea have episodes in which they stop breathing for 10 seconds or more during sleep.

People with sleep apnea usually do not remember waking up during the night. Some of the potential problems may include morning headaches, excessive daytime sleepiness, irritability and impaired mental or emotional functioning, excessive snoring, choking/gasping during sleep, insomnia, or awakening with a dry mouth or throat.

Have you been told that you snore? Do you often feel tired, fatigued, or sleepy during the daytime? Has anyone ever witnessed you stop breathing while you are asleep, or have you ever awoken with a gasp? Do you have high blood pressure, or are you on medication to control high blood pressure? Is your body mass index greater than 28? Are you a male with a neck circumference greater than 17 inches or a female greater 16 inches? (Note: anyone of any size can have sleep apnea)

If you answered yes to more than two of these questions, or if there is anything else in this column that makes you believe you may not be getting the quality of sleep you would like, maybe your new normal should be better sleep. A good first step would be to talk with your physician or sleep-minded dentist.

Dr. St. Clair maintains a private dental practice in Rowley and Newburyport dedicated to health-centered family dentistry. If there are certain topics you would like to see written about or questions you have please email them to him at You can view all previously written columns at

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