Did you know that you might be making your TMJ worse overnight than during the day? It’s true. Even if you’re not spending eight hours in bed, you’re still spending a prolonged block, and you might spend much of your time in a single position. Because you’re not conscious, you can’t intervene if you stop clenching your jaw, and you might be less aware when you’re in a position that is putting adverse pressure on the temporomandibular joint or your jaw muscles. You can’t control how you sleep all night long, but you can at least make sure you start in the right position.
The Best Sleeping Position for TMJ
To reduce sleeping trauma to your TMJ, it is best if you sleep on your back. This minimizes the force on your jaw. Sleeping on your side or your stomach puts some of the weight of your head and neck onto your jaw, pushing it to one side or backward, but if you sleep on your back, the only weight on the jaw is the jaw itself.
Sleeping on your back is also good for putting your neck and back into a relaxed position. Because the muscles of the jaw and neck work together, minimizing neck strain will reduce tension in the jaw.
However, there is one group of people that won’t benefit from sleeping on their back: those at risk for sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is when your airway collapses, cutting off your air supply. For many people at risk for sleep apnea, sleeping on their back makes sleep apnea worse, and therefore it can actually make TMJ worse.
If you have sleep apnea, one thing your body does to attempt to keep your airway open is to clench your jaw. If your airway collapses hundreds of times a night, you might significantly increase the amount of time you spend clenching your jaw if you sleep on your back, and more clenching of your jaw means worse TMJ.
If You Want to Sleep Easy
The good news is, there are solutions for night time TMJ. The best solution for TMJ at night is a bite splint, which you can wear at night. It will hold your jaw in a relaxed position and provide additional support for your joints and muscles, helping you to feel better in the morning. For most TMJ sufferers, wearing a splint at night will provide a large measure of relief and may be the only TMJ treatment necessary.
To learn how we can help you overcome sleeping TMJ, please call (803) 781-9090 for an appointment with a Columbia, SC TMJ dentist at Smile Columbia Dentistry today.