Temporomandibular joint disorder, better known as TMD or TMJ, can be a deeply painful, uncomfortable problem to have – especially at night. For many patients, the classic TMJ symptoms of teeth grinding, clenching, and muscle tension get worse at night, and often go into overdrive during sleep. This can cause problems ranging from muscle pain to headaches and make it difficult to sleep. In addition, when we have a sleep-related breathing disorder affecting our airway, our body tenses up, and attempts to lock the jaw to protect the airway. This may be our body’s defense mechanism to continue getting oxygen during sleep. There is a tremendous overlap between sleep and TMJ issues. As a leading sleep apnea doctor serving patients throughout San Jose, Santa Cruz, and surrounding areas, we help many patients deal with issues like TMJ and sleep apnea.
Tips to Improve TMJ Dysfunction at Home
Struggling to sleep well due to TMJ problems? You’re not alone. Here are a few tips to help you achieve better, healthier sleep and relief from TMJ:
- Get in Alignment: One common factor that creates TMJ symptoms is poor sleeping position. For TMJ, it’s best to sleep on your back using an orthopedic pillow to keep your neck and spine in proper alignment, so make sure you’re sleeping in the optimal position.
- Self-Massage: Over time, TMJ causes tension to store in the muscles of the jaw, eventually causing them to remain tight and clenched. Using your fingers to massage the muscles in and around your jaw can help relieve this tension and minimize nighttime grinding.
- Get Loose: Another great option is to take time to de-stress your body before bed. Nighttime yoga, meditation, or a hot bath can help dissipate stress in your body, keeping you relaxed and minimizing clenching during sleep.
- Get a Night Guard: A night guard is an oral appliance designed to protect your teeth and lessen the tension from nighttime grinding. If you suffer from TMJ, getting a custom-made night guard is a great step you can take to treat it. However, be sure you don’t wear a nightguard if you have sleep apnea, as most studies show a nightguard can make sleep apnea worse. Talk to one of our doctors for more information.
- Treat Your Sleep Apnea: Finally, it’s important to remember that TMJ and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) go hand in hand. The lack of oxygen from OSA can exacerbate muscle clenching, which can in turn cause worse TMJ pain and reinforce the cycle. Getting sleep apnea treatment is vital for many aspects of health, but it can also improve TMJ symptoms.
Schedule a Sleep Apnea Treatment Consultation
We hope these tips help you sleep a little better and reduce the problems of TMJ, but remember that there’s no substitute for professional treatment. If you think you might benefit from TMJ or sleep apnea treatment, take the first step and request a consultation online with us today. We can’t wait to hear from you, and we look forward to helping you free yourself from nighttime sleep problems!