While plenty has been written regarding TMJ/TMDs (temporomandibular joint disorder) something that’s often overlooked is sleeping with TMJ. If you’re one of the estimated 60-70% of the Australian population suffering from signs of TMD you have first-hand experience of how the problem can affect your quality of life.
When a person has TMD, the joint that attaches their mandible (lower jaw) to the temporal bones at the side of their head is not functioning properly. Certain facial muscles responsible for chewing are also attached to the lower jaw. TMJ Disorder can cause facial pain, head and neck pain, and ear pain.
During the night, tension in the muscles can make it difficult to find a comfortable position to sleep in that doesn’t cause pain. Tossing and turning in an attempt to find the right position can leave you feeling tired and irritable in the morning.
Sleeping with TMD and managing your TMJ Symptoms
Getting a good night’s sleep is crucial for your overall health and well-being and means that you wake up feeling relaxed and ready to face another new day. Here at Melbourne Dental Sleep Clinic, we want to help our patients get the most from their sleep – besides, everyone deserves restful night without pain! Here are a few ways you can manage your TMJ symptoms to achieve a better night’s sleep.
The #1 Sleeping Position
Placing strain on your face, jaw, head, or neck can make sleeping with TMJ even harder. If you’ve been waking up hurting, then chances are you’ve not been sleeping in the best position.
Your sleep position is extremely important. The number one position that’s recommended for TMD sufferers is on the back. You can try tucking a pillow under your knees to make it more comfortable and perhaps use some pillows on your side to prevent you from turning over.
Why sleep on your back?
Because this position supports the neck and back and puts no pressure on the jaw – you’re less likely to grind your teeth, which is one of the symptoms that many TMD sufferers exhibit.
Plus, if you didn’t already know, this the best sleeping position for your spine, so that’s another bonus. If you find it difficult to sleep on your back do not be tempted to sleep on your stomach as this is a sure-fire way to aggravate your jaw.
Instead, try sleeping on your side and place a pillow between your knees, a pillow between your arms, and make sure your head pillow is not pressing against your TM joint.
TMJ Sleeping Quick Tips
Sometimes, finding the most comfortable position to sleep in isn’t enough. You may still find it hard to relax and any pain you may feel is likely to be distracting. We’ve put together some quick tips for bedtime and some TMJ related sleeping techniques, which don’t involve taking medication.
A little light yoga before you get ready for bed could help you relax, particularly if you focus on exercises designed to relieve neck pain and TMJ. Do check with your doctor first before starting any form of exercise.
TMD is made worse by stress which may mean more teeth clenching and more tension in the muscles. This in turn causes more stress. It’s a bit like being on a continual merry-go-round where you can’t get off. To try and break this perpetual cycle find something that relaxes you. It could be listening to music, taking a warm bath, or sprinkling a little lavender oil on your bedsheets. Find what makes you feel your calmest and then embrace it!
Choose the right pillow
Do not use a full firm pillow beneath your head. There are various orthopaedic pillows which are designed to help reduce neck and head pain. These provide support and extend your neck in such a way that minimises tension and grinding without stretching any muscles. If you prefer, you can always place a rolled-up bath towel under your neck.
Watch where you place your arms
If you’re not used to sleeping on your back it can feel a little limiting. However, you can make use of your arms and legs by placing them in positions which make you feel more comfortable. Just avoid pulling your arms up near your head as this can strain your neck and cause you more jaw pain.
Pay attention to your tongue
Yep, this is a bit of a weird thing for us to say. However, the position of your tongue plays a big part in how happy your jaw is. When you’re resting, the ideal position for your tongue is with its tip positioned about one centimetre behind your upper teeth and the rest of the tongue held by suction to the roof of your mouth.
The best way to ensure a good night’s sleep is to get in touch with Melbourne Sleep Dental Clinic. We use the latest non-surgical TMJ treatment in the form of mouth orthotics which helps our patients get the peaceful night’s sleep they deserve.