Many people think they can resolve their sleep problems by simply going to bed at a regular time every night, having the right pillows, and buying a high-quality mattress. Though those things do help to set the stage for a sound night of much-needed sleep, they might not be enough.

If your bedtime routine and gear haven’t resolved your sleep problems, there may be something else that could be causing you to wake each and every morning feeling as if your head just hit the pillow even though you spent a good eight hours in the sack. In fact, one of the biggest culprits of sleep deprivation is TMJ.

woman laying in bed with jaw pain

TMJ Can Be Complicated

TMJ is a condition where your temporomandibular (TMJ) joint does not function properly. Caused by a misaligned bite, loose, missing, or damaged teeth, or a jaw injury it can lead to nighttime teeth grinding or jaw clenching as your jaw joints and muscles struggle to find a comfortable, balanced position. TMJ can also cause snoring or sleep apnea. These are sleep disorders that can cause you to wake continually throughout the night, robbing you of the sleep you need to function during the day.

Waking up tired is just one clue that a TMJ disorder may be an issue. Other symptoms include:

  • jaw, neck face, or shoulder pain
  • a clicking or popping sound in your jaw joint
  • dizziness
  • ringing in your ears
  • headaches or migraines

The Best Sleep Positions For TMJ

If you suffer from TMJ, simply changing your sleep position can make a huge difference in your TMJ symptoms and quality of sleep. Before thinking about your sleep position, evaluate your mattress and pillow situation. Your pillow should support your head and neck and align your spine. Your mattress should also feel comfortable to lay on in any position. If you feel like your mattress is too uncomfortable, consider investing in a new one or at least get a mattress topper to improve it a bit. Next, lay in several different positions while you’re awake to see if it causes your jaw to rest in an unnatural position. If you find that it does, rule out that position as a sleeping position. See how different sleep positions affect your jaw.

Stomach Sleeping

Sleeping on your stomach is probably the worst position you can sleep in for TMJ. Sleeping on your stomach is bad for spine alignment and forces you to put pressure on your jaw. As a result, you’re more likely to clench or grind your teeth at night.

On Your Side

The second worst sleep position for TMJ is sleeping on your side with your hand under your head or pillow. This causes your head and neck to fall out of alignment which makes it more likely for your TMJ symptoms to flare up in the morning.

On Your Back

If you’re suffering from severe TMJ symptoms, sleeping on your back is your best bet. It keeps your head and neck in alignment which reduces your chance of clenching or grinding your teeth when you’re asleep. For many, it’s extremely difficult to feel comfortable falling asleep on your back. After a time, you can train your body to find this position comfortable so you can wake up feeling refreshed and pain-free. The one downside of sleeping on your back is that it makes you more likely to snore at night. Make sure to rule out any sleep disorders if you suffer from TMJ. Otherwise, you might require oral appliance therapy to correct both your TMJ and sleep apnea.

Treat Your TMJ and Get Back to Sleep

Sleep deprivation can cause serious problems. Tired people are more likely to make mistakes, have accidents, perform poorly at school or work, have relations problems, or become depressed. By simply treating your TMJ, you’ll be able to get a restful night’s sleep once again. As a bonus, you will wake up feeling refreshed and nearly pain-free. Without daily pain or headaches, you can get your life back on track! What can you accomplish in a pain-free day? Dr. Nehawandian can create an individualized treatment plan for your TMJ.

Do You Have TMJ?

If you suspect that TMJ may be robbing you of a good night’s sleep, take our online TMJ test. Trained in neuromuscular dentistry, Dr. Nehawandian will review your test results for free and contact you within 48 hours with an evaluation of what might be causing your TMJ related sleep problems. Then, you can visit her in the office for a complete evaluation and a diagnosis and treatment plan. Reducing your TMJ pain and getting a better night of sleep is just a few appointments away. All it takes is a simple TMJ consultation at our Los Gatos dental office. Schedule a consultation by calling (408) 354-5600 today.