When do you most notice your TMJ symptoms like jaw pain? For some people, it’s at the end of a long, grueling day. Physical labor or emotional stress can put stress on the jaw joint, so that by the end of the day you are developing headaches. But other times you may experience TMJ symptoms in the morning. This may be because you have night bruxism. But sometimes something as simple as changing your sleep position can help.
The Best TMJ Sleeping Position
Sleeping on your stomach or side can put much of the weight of your head and neck onto your jaw. Depending on the position you sleep in, you might be driving the jaw backwards or sideways in a way that can put stress on the jaw joint and muscles.
Sleeping on your back can minimize the stress on your jaw joint. All it will have to do is support its own weight.
Don’t Neglect the Neck
Another potential factor in your TMJ is the interplay between your neck muscles and your jaw muscles. Just like a jaw problem can be felt as neck pain, a neck problem might be felt as jaw pain. Make sure your sleeping position is comfortable for your neck. Your neck should rest in a natural curve, adequately supported and not flexed up, down, or sideways.
And Keep an Eye out for Apnea
Another problem to be aware of is sleep apnea, which can be made worse by sleeping on your back. Sleeping on your back will put more weight on your neck–especially if you carry a lot of body mass in your neck–which can cause the airway to narrow–leading to snoring–or close–leading to apneas. Sleep apnea can cause you to wake up with a headache, which you might mistake for TMJ-related problems.
Sleep apnea can also contribute to TMJ because when your body is trying to hold the airway open, it will clench your jaw, which can stress jaw muscles and worsen problems related to misalignment of teeth.
If You Want to Sleep Easy
Fortunately, though, there are treatments for TMJ and sleep apnea that can reduce or eliminate symptoms when you wake up and all day long. An oral appliance can be used for either condition, holding your jaw in a more appropriate position for muscle support and for breathing.
If you would like to learn more about how to sleep well and wake up refreshed and pain-free, please call (619) 299-5925 for an appointment with a San Diego TMJ dentist at Strober Dental.