TEETH GRINDING, SLEEP WALKING & SLEEP TALKING
Discover the nasal link to teeth grinding, sleep talking & sleep walking
When we sleep, it is a time of rest not only for your body but your brain. Sleep itself is not just something that happens - it is programmed and runs in an orderly sequence. Each night our brain goes through a couple of cycles of specific events that we call stages. To move through these stages, the environment within which the brain functions, needs to be just right. You may know what it is like - a busy place. Sometimes, teeth grinding, sleep walking and sleep talking happen during sleep and you really struggle to get into a good deep sleep. Wake up in the morning after an interrupted sleep and you just cannot quite function as well as you would like to. Apart from the obvious clue that you have had a bad night sleep since you wake up tired, there are other things that can occur through the night, such as teeth grinding, sleep walking and sleep talking, that are signs that the sleep cycle program is not going to plan. Now these are things that you won’t be aware of yourself directly, but once you have read this, it will seem a lot clearer.
1. TEETH GRINDING:
So, let’s start with teeth grinding at night. When we are asleep there are a couple of stages where our muscles are all relaxed and one stage where the muscle tone increases. During this stage of increased tonicity, if there is something wrong with
the sleep quality, the brain may react in such a way that it is in a state of anxiety. One thing some people do when they are awake if they are stressed, is to clench their teeth or grind them. The same thing can happen in people who have ‘stressed’ brains at night. The research is showing that one of the most common causes of a ‘stressed’ brain at night is not anxiety but low oxygen levels. The reasons for low oxygen levels during sleep is discussed below.
2. SLEEP WALKING AND TALKING IN SLEEP:
Most of the time with sleep talking this is just an audible mumbling of nonsense that occurs when the brain is treading the line between awake and asleep with active dreaming going on. Sometimes the brain gets so active that people get up and start walking. They have no idea they are doing it and bemusing to some is the tendency to want to pee, all be it in places that are not the toilet!
WHAT HAS ALL OF THIS TO DO WITH THE NOSE?
There is a greater tendency for children to have teeth grinding, sleep walking and sleep talking and in extreme cases to have
A ‘stressed‘ brain at night is not due to anxiety but low oxygen level.
night terrors, when their nose is blocked and they cannot breathe properly. It seems that a slight drop in their oxygen levels is enough to set off a panic alarm with brain springing into action.
WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU SUSPECT TEETH GRINDING, SLEEP WALKING AND SLEEP TALKING?
1. If you or someone in the house grinds their teeth, sleep walks or sleep talks, realise this is not normal.
2. If associated with snoring, sleep apnoea or mouth breathing at night, definitely get it investigated by a specialist.
3. In dentistry, teeth grinding has changed from being attributed to anxiety to being considered a prime symptom of potential airway obstruction.
4. Sometimes special sleep tests are required for complex cases.
5. The treatments vary, from surgery, to mouth guards, to breathing devices. Approximately 80% of children that exhibit these night time behaviours will stop doing them once they can breathe clearly again. The first step to helping these children is to have an ENT check the reasons for airway obstruction. So, finding the underlying cause for teeth grinding, sleep walking and sleep talking, needs to be a priority.
Dr David McIntosh is a Paediatric ENT Specialist with a particular interest in airway obstruction, facial and dental development and its relationship to ENT airway problems and middle ear disease. He also specialises in sinus disease and provides opinions on the benefit of revision of previous sinus operations. Dr McIntosh can be contacted via this website.
Children with these night time behaviours will stop once they can breathe clearly again.