Detroit Area Dentist Reevaluates the Common Sleep Pattern, Pt. 1

There are a variety of dental-related issues that can disturb your sleep. Among the most direct issues is tooth discomfort or sensitivity, which can be so uncomfortable as to make sleep impossible. More complex issues can include TMJ discomfort, which can be excruciating and cause tooth grinding/gnawing, and obstructive sleep apnea. Waking in the middle of the night because of dental discomfort or other health issues can be exasperating, but waking for no reason can be equally disturbing. Even if there is no obvious reason for suddenly waking, you may still stress over the sleep that you are losing, especially if you have to wake up early for work or school. In this two-part series, Farmington Hills dentist Dr. Aziza Askari discusses research that may put your mind at ease about sudden, unexplained midnight wakefulness.

Before There Were Streetlights

Arguably one of the most popular cities in the world today, New York proudly boasts the title of “The City that Never Sleeps”, among other nicknames. While the phrase is not popularly used to describe any other specific metropolitan area, most large cities, including Detroit, operate on the same principle. All-night fast-food restaurants, bars, and after-hours clubs pump life into the night hours, and many people could not bear the thought of missing any of the action. A few hundred years ago, that was not the case. Before the 17th century, the dark hours of the night were reserved for evil and people of disrepute. People of a decent nature simply did not venture out into the night. That created a large block of hours that could be dedicated to other activities, like sleep. Years of research on the history of nighttime, conducted by historian Roger Ekirch, of Virginia Tech, has uncovered over 500 references that describe how our ancestors utilized this extra downtime.

According to the research, eight-hour sleep cycles, such as is recommended for healthy adults today, were unheard of. Sleep would usually begin just one or two hours after dusk, and last for about four hours. Afterwards, a person would wake for a couple of hours, and then sleep once again for about four more hours. With the improvement of home and public lighting, in addition to coffee-houses that were beginning to remain open all night, the night became less taboo, and time became a commodity that few people were willing to squander in bed. By the beginning of the 1900’s, the fragmented sleep pattern was nearly unheard of, and soon disappeared from our conscious recollection.