Integrative Pediatric Dentistry & Orthodontics Serving SF Bay Area
To Sleep or Not to Sleep

To Sleep or Not to Sleep

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… or is it really?

If you are like me, you might wonder “why the hell do we have daylight savings?” Every time the hours move, almost everyone comes into the office to tell me how tired they are because of the change. Although having more daylight can lead to more productive days, studies have shown that the deleterious effect of this one hour change and its long drawn out effect causes problems like more emergency patients, more accidents, and more diseases to appear.

If you are the parents of little kids, there’s an added struggle of trying to put the kids in bed every evening, especially for those night owl kids. I know, I have one myself.

As it turns out, our genetics determine if we are a morning lark or a night owl individual. Nature kindly put these internal clocks so that the human species can protect themselves. However, since we no longer defend ourselves from the attacks of wolves and tigers, our present industrialized society doesn’t differentiate this trait. We start the school and work at the same time and finish at the same time. Certain people are bound to be tired as the winter continues and the times change, leaving their brain to suffer from lack of sleep.

I always ask three questions during a consultation visit with parents: 1. Does your child eat well? 2. Does your child sleep well? 3. Does your child eliminate well?

I know from the beginning that if these three conditions are met well, there are less problems to deal with while I am working on other dental and orthodontic treatments. I also know when a patient starts to sleep well because treatments will go much better.

So far, more than thousands of studies have shown that all biological functions benefit from a good night’s sleep. Growing children especially need good deep sleep between 10 PM to 2 PM, which is when the growth hormone peaks and the body is in restorative mode. Recently, scientists discovered the glymphatic flow, which cleans out our brain regularly at night while we are resting. Our brain also learn a lot during sleep. The current trend (yes, medicine also has a trend) in dentistry is “sleep dentistry” and/or “Airway focused Dentistry.” In my 30 years of practice, I have not had this many referrals from doctors and other practitioners to treat sleep disorders, mainly for sleep disordered breathing, a.k.a. sleep apnea. Many dentists are saying that one reason to do orthodontics is to create a bigger airway to prevent sleep apnea.

Can it be that simple? Just widen the palate or dental arch by force with a screw to miraculously treat all sleep disorders?

To Sleep or Not to Sleep
The above painting by Subsoo Lim (Dr. Moy's mother), titled "Fall Forest"

Sleep is not that simple. During my late 30’s to early 50’s, I struggled with major insomnia. I had to take sleeping pills every night for 10 years until it stopped working. When I had my child, the sleepless nights were added by my night owl baby who would not want to close her eyes until past midnight. It was only later when I studied the autonomic nervous system and hormonal balance (endobiogeny) that I realized sleep is not something just happens overnight when I lay down, it has to be finely synchronized with your body clock (circadian rhythm). You also need a properly balanced nervous system to produce sleep hormones to make you fall asleep and to turn off stress hormones.

I now know that to have successful orthodontic treatments for growing children, I need to figure out how to get kids to sleep well on top of everything else like proper posture, breathing, chewing, and swallowing.

While there are great health challenges with sleep in the present, we must take some immediate measure to support our children’s sleep. While we could use plants and natural remedies to help our little ones and parents rest better, here are some tips to consider below.

Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

1. Sleeping in a dark room without digital devices.
2. Making sure the room is cool and use a heavier cover or weighted blanket to keep warm and cozy.
3. Eat easy to digest meals for dinner (hold off on the pizza and ice cream). For the little ones, warm milk (raw milk, oat milk, goat milk) with a dash of Honey can help them get through the night without waking up.
4. Preferably, do not keep dusty carpets and rugs in the room.
5. For the little ones, a warm bath with lavender oil as a ritual before bed with a book to be read by you.
6. Big, long and tight hugs before bed which helps stimulate a good dose of serotonin. Great for all ages!
7. Gentle breathing exercises with a hand on the chest.
8. We all know this is hard to do, but stay away from digital devices at least two hours before the bedtime.
9. For the night owl kids, instead of blaming them, understand their internal clock and let them sleep more in the morning during the weekend to catch up.

There are so many variables in good night’s sleep. Ciao Smiles deals with breathing and airway with a gentle and kind method called ALF therapy.

We at Ciao Smiles believe that every little one needs a personalized approach to achieve optimum health for growing and developing.

Ask us how we can help you.

In good health and happiness,
Dr Moy and Ciao Smiles team

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Dr. Mona Moy
Dr. Mona Moy
Over a Decade of Experience with ALF Orthodontics

Over her more than 30 years of practicing general dentistry, orthodontics, and treating TMJ disorder for all age groups, Dr. Moy observed that many adults with these problems also suffered from other chronic health issues, which started in their early childhood.