August 8, 2011
1. Eat or snack close to bedtime.
Going to bed on a full stomach may help you fall asleep faster, but once you’re asleep, you’re more likely to have reflux into the throat, leading to more frequent breathing obstructions and arousals, leading to inefficient sleep.
Most modern humans have dental crowding and smaller jaws. Since soft tissues such as the tongue and nasal septum grow to their genetically predetermined size, the airway gets crowded. This leads to more frequent obstructions when on your back (due to gravity) and especially when in deep sleep (due to muscle relaxation). The more juices you have in your stomach when you go to bed, the more likely it’ll come up when you stop breathing.
Your stomach juices include not only acid, but also bile, digestive enzymes, and even bacteria. These substances can cause even more inflammation and swelling in your throat, leading more more obstructions and arousals.
If you want to gain weight, continue eating late. Lack of sleep quantity or sleep quality has been shown to promote weight gain, which leads to more narrowing in your throat.
2. Drink a night cap before bedtime
Alcohol may help you to fall asleep better and faster, but it causes your throat muscles to relax and you’ll stop breathing much more often, preventing you from achieving continuous deep and REM sleep. Not sleeping deeply can increase stress levels, making it difficult to shut down your brain when you’re trying to fall asleep. Drinking alcohol before bedtime can help you to go to sleep, but you end up aggravating this vicious cycle. Alcohol also irritate the stomach, creating more acid production.
3. Sleep on your back
Modern humans, due to smaller than normal jaws, are unable to breathe well during sleep when supine due to the tongue falling back (due to gravity) and especially in deep sleep (muscles relax). The more crowded your mouth is (if you needed braces), the more likely you’re going to be a natural side or stomach sleeper. Anything that prevents you from your normal preferred position will increase the number of obstructions and arousals, leading to less efficient sleep. One way to make sure that you sleep on your back is to get injured or undergo surgery—this will definitely lower your sleep quality.
4. Undergo rhinoplasty
Whenever the surgeon narrows the tip, cartilage in your nostrils are weakened, and years later, are more likely to cave in whenever your inhale. If you have a deviated nasal septum, or allergies, the weakened nostrils are more likely to collapse inwards, leading to a vacuum effect in the throat, with more frequent tongue collapses (especially if you have small jaws, eat late or drink late). Look for a surgeon that doesn’t take the steps needed to prevent this from happening if you want to have more breathing problems later in life.
5. Bottle-feed as an Infant
Dentists have shown that the physical act of bottle-feeding changes your bite and dental structures, leading to a higher incidence of malocclusion. This leads to crowded teeth and narrow dental arches, which can increase your chances of developing obstructive sleep apnea later in life. If you want to make things worse, use pacifiers whenever possible and encourage thumb-sucking for as long as possible.
6. Undergo jaw surgery
Jaw operations are commonly performed to correct bite or occlusion problems, but one thing that surgeons frequently don’t address is the fact that any time the upper or lower jaw is pushed back, the airway can become more compromised. As a result, your smile and your bite can improve, but your ability to breathe properly at night will go downhill. Not sleeping efficiently can significantly increase your rate of aging.
7. Don’t treat your sleep apnea
Obstructive sleep apnea is a common condition that becomes more common as we all get older. People with sleep apnea stop breathing repeatedly at night, without even realizing it. This causes a major physiologic stress response that wreaks havoc on your body. Even growth hormone levels are diminished. In fact, about 1/4 of men and 1/10 of women are thought to have unrelated obstructive sleep apnea. After age 60 to 70, some studies show that the vast majority have obstructive sleep apnea, especially if you have chronic medical conditions or are institutionalized.
Efficient sleep (quantity and quality) is essential for healing, regeneration, and rejuvenation. Ignoring your breathing problems while sleeping is a surefire way to age faster. If you really want to have more facial wrinkles, wait until you’re much older to address any underlying sleep-breathing issues you may have.
March 22, 2011
Ponce de Leon is well known as the Spanish explorer that searched for the fountain of youth in the early 1500s. Even today, that search continues through the multi-billion dollar cosmetics industry, plastic surgery procedures, and nutritional products. Anti-aging medicine even has a certifying organization for doctors. Some experts are even claiming that they can reverse the aging process.
Knowing what we know about the importance of sleep and the havoc it can cause on your body, I can confidently say that the best way to slow down aging is to optimize your sleep quality. Sleep is known to be vital in tissue healing and regeneration, hormone regulation, as well as in helping to consolidate memories and thought processes. For example, non-REM deep sleep is important for tissue repair, growth hormone release, and other regenerative processes. REM sleep is needed for memory consolidation and creativity.
When most people read or hear about better sleep, they think about going to bed earlier or sleeping longer. People with insomnia are also inundated with “warm milk” recommendations, such as valerian, green tea, turkey, melatonin, meditation, and probably dozens of other vitamins, supplements, or relaxation techniques that help to calm or numb the mind to allow for faster sleep onset. Many of these options can work to various degrees, but won’t be helpful at all if you stop breathing at night. Once your breathing passageways obstruct while sleeping, you have to wake up. You can either wake up violently in a state of panic with sweating and your heart racing, or just get taken out of deep sleep into a lighter stage of sleep.
About 1-2 times per month, I see women who complain of various ear, nose or throat symptoms, let’s say for about 6 weeks. They also usually complains of increased fatigue, headaches, and poor sleep. They usually see their medical doctors and have tried multiple courses of antibiotics or allergy medications. They will typically say that they sleep on their backs when questioned about their preferred sleep position. Looking at their oral cavity exam, I don’t believe them. When questioned further, they all admit that they used to be stomach sleepers, but changed to back sleeping after reading an articles on various magazines, usually by a dermatologist (or sometimes a chiropractor) that recommends avoiding stomach sleeping since it can cause facial wrinkles. Almost every time, their health problems began just after they made the switch in their sleep position. Once they go back to their normal sleep position, their health problems usually resolve.
The cosmetics industry’s fight against facial wrinkles is a classic example our quest to delay aging. In the above example, the reason why some people have to sleep on their stomachs is so that they can breathe properly. Being on their backs causes the tongue to fall back due to gravity, and when in deep sleep, it relaxes completely, leading to obstruction and arousal. Having smaller jaws and dental crowding can aggravate this problem even more. Not getting sufficient amounts of deep sleep causes a generalized state of physiologic stress and adrenaline production, which tends to constrict blood vessels that supply certain parts of the body that are considered “unessential” when you’re under stress. This includes your digestive system, your reproductive organs, as well as your skin. Not receiving proper circulation deprives the tissues of oxygen, preventing proper nutrition and not allowing for healing, regeneration, and waste removal. Hypoxia also creates an environment that’s toxic to the local tissues, leading to further damage and accelerated aging. The bottom line is that not getting good sleep accelerates your aging process.
Another important concept that has profound implications is the fact that underdevelopment of the bony midface and jaw structures leads to wrinkles earlier in life. Having smaller facial bony structures does not stretch the facial skin over the bones as much compared to larger facial structures. Since elastic properties of facial skin tend to degrade over time, having smaller facial bones allows wrinkles to show up earlier, with the same degree of environmental, dietary, or genetic factors.
Two common habits that are thought to accelerate aging and even wrinkles are sun tanning and smoking. Sun tanning may make you look “healthy” temporarily, but sun damage takes a toll on your skin, especially if you’re susceptible to the sleep-breathing problems that I describe. Imagine if you already have diminished circulation to the skin, with diminished levels of oxygen. By definition, you’ll have more levels of oxidative stress, where free-radical oxygen molecules are formed, which can damage DNA. Add ionizing radiation, and it’s a double whammy.
Nicotine is a known stimulant which also has been proven to constrict blood vessels, especially in the skin. It also has a calming effect the way Ritalin helps to calm children with ADHD: Stimulants help to counteract the effects of sleep deprivation from not breathing well at night. It’s also been shown that it takes nicotine about 45 seconds to reach the brain once you inhale smoke into your lungs. This doesn’t make any sense, since most smokers will tell you that they feel more relaxed after the first one or two breaths. What’s making smokes relaxed is the relaxing properties of deep breathing, along with the stimulating effects of nicotine. But by relaxing more using deep breathing techniques to inhale a stimulant, you’re cutting off blood flow to your skin, which if already sun damaged, is more likely to suffer from wrinkles.
The basic thesis of my sleep-breathing paradigm states that all modern humans stop breathing once is a while. But as we get older, not only do we sag on the outside, but also on the inside. If you think about it, the rate at which we age is directly proportional to how narrow your upper airway gets. Add to this additional gravity and the typical weight gain that tends to occur during middle age, it’s no wonder so many people have sleep-breathing problems as we all get older. We’ll never run out of more pills, gadgets, devices and diets that tout their anti-aging properties, but without addressing how well you breathe while sleeping, you’ll continue to suffer from accelerated aging.
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September 20, 2010
In this Expert Interview, I talk with Dr. Raymond Silkman, a holistic dentist, who will reveal his unique perspective on how our diets have ruined our health, mainly by causing our jaws to shrink. Dr. Silkman reveals:
- How modern orthodontics can ruin your sleep quality
- How dental crowding can lead to nasal congestion
- The real cause of TMJ (it’s not from grinding or clenching)
- Why modern humans have more facial wrinkles
- and much, much more…
To download the MP3 recording, please enter your information below. You’ll receive an email with the download link.
February 4, 2010
One of the main reasons why sleep apnea is so common these days is that modern human's facial skeleton and jaws are much smaller than what they used to be hundreds of years ago. Dentists are saying that people didn't get impacted molars hundreds of years ago, since they had much more room inside their mouths. Dr. Weston Price, in his classic book, Nutrition and Physical Degeneration, describes how due to a radical change in our diets from natural, organic foods to highly processed and sugary foods, our jaws are getting smaller and smaller.
Think about your facial skeleton as the walls of a house. The soft tissues are the furniture. As you move the walls inward, there's less space for the furniture and less space for you to walk through the room. To improve the situation, you either have to widen the walls or remove some furniture. This is what's done with the various sleep apnea treatment options that involve surgery. With CPAP, picture yourself navigating through the crowded furniture a bit faster to get to the other side.
A very important concept that many forward-thinking physicians and dentists point out is that the soft tissues (your facial skin, and internal structures like your tongue or septal cartilage) grow to its' genetically predetermined size. If you have smaller jaws, then you'll have crowding in your mouth, with partial obstruction of the breathing passageways behind the tongue. This is why many modern humans can't sleep on our backs. With gravity, the tongue falls back, and when you add deep sleep with additional muscle relaxation, you'll stop breathing and keep waking up.
The same process applies with the nasal septum. If your jaws are more narrow, the roof of your mouth gets pushed up into your nasal cavity. Then one of two things can occur: the septum (which sits on the floor of your nose, which is also the roof of your mouth), buckles to one side or the other, of the septum stays in place, but causes the maxillary bone underneath to splay apart, leading to the symmetric right and left maxillary bone spurs that you'll often see. Sometimes, due to the constant stimulation of the septum on the roof of your mouth, a midline bony bulge can occur in your mouth (called a torus palatini).
If you upper jaw is underdeveloped from a front and back perspective, then your upper lip and lower nose will be pulled down and in, leading to the appearance of a nasal hump. This is one of the most common reasons for a traditional rhinoplasty. Furthermore, underdevelopment of the lower jaw creates the classic weak chin, which is traditionally treated with chin implants. Cheek bones are also underdeveloped, leading to a lowering of the lower eyelid and flattening of the face under the eyes. Since the facial skeleton is smaller, the skin that drapes the bony structures are more lax, and with aging, tends to sag and wrinkle easier. An excellent, more thorough review of these concepts can be found here.
When I first read about this process, my eyes were opened as to why there's so many sinus problems, nasal congestion, headaches, TMJ, and various sleep-breathing problems. This is also why when one specialty treats one particular problem (ENTs treating the sinus problem, dentists treating the TMJ problem, the neurologist treating the headache, and the dermatologist treating the wrinkles, etc.), these problems always tend to come back.
What do you think about what I'm describing? Is it academic hype, or should we be afraid of our very future? Please enter your comments in the comments box below.
August 12, 2008