Access and print new patient paperwork
How we can help
We provide solutions to your Sleep Apnea
Sleep Disorder Assessment
Let's find out the cause
Oral Appliance Therapy Benefits
Learn about the long and short term benefits
CPAP Replacement Assessment
Let's improve your CPAP experience
Want To Replace Your CPAP?
Find out if our CPAP alternative works best for you
Studies on CPAP usage
Did You Know That 50% Of Users Will Stop Using It After One Year?
A Long Term Solution
Let's improve your sleep and overall health
How we can help
We provide solutions to your Sleep Apnea
Sleep Disorder Assessment
Let's find out the cause
CPAP Replacement Assessment
Let's improve your CPAP experience
We provide solutions to your Sleep Apnea
Did You Know That 50% Of Users Will Stop Using It After One Year?
Let's improve your sleep and overall health

Why is TMJ Worse at Night?

April 3, 2024

TMJ, or temporomandibular joint disorder, can be a painful condition affecting the jaw joint and muscles that control jaw movement. Individuals with TMJ often experience heightened discomfort during the night, impacting their sleep quality and overall well-being. The reasons behind this nighttime exacerbation of symptoms are multifaceted.

What is TMJ?

TMJ, short for temporomandibular joint, is a pivotal joint connecting the jawbone to the skull, facilitating essential movements like chewing, talking, and yawning. When this joint experiences dysfunction or discomfort, it's referred to as temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ disorder). Individuals with TMJ disorder often endure symptoms such as jaw pain, clicking or popping noises when chewing, limited mouth movement, and headaches. These conditions can arise from various factors like jaw injury, arthritis, teeth grinding (bruxism), stress, or dental misalignment. The impact of TMJ disorder can be significant, affecting basic functions and diminishing overall quality of life. Seeking professional help is crucial for managing TMJ disorders effectively, as it can lead to improved jaw function and relief from associated discomfort.

Why Does My TMJ Disorder Feel Worse at Night?

Individuals with TMJ disorder often find that their symptoms worsen at night, leading to increased discomfort and difficulty sleeping. Several factors contribute to this aggravation of TMJ symptoms during the night. One primary reason is heightened muscle tension, which can occur due to stress or subconscious teeth clenching and grinding (bruxism) while asleep. Additionally, altered sleeping positions may put pressure on the jaw joint, exacerbating pain and stiffness. Moreover, during the night, there are fewer distractions, allowing individuals to become more aware of their TMJ-related discomfort. The combination of these factors can result in a vicious cycle of increased pain leading to disrupted sleep, which in turn further exacerbates TMJ symptoms. Understanding these triggers can help individuals implement strategies to alleviate nighttime discomfort and improve sleep quality despite TMJ disorder.

How to Relieve TMJ Pain

Relieving TMJ pain often involves a combination of self-care strategies and professional treatments tailored to the individual's specific symptoms and needs. Here are some effective ways to alleviate TMJ pain:

Apply Moist Heat:

Applying moist heat to the affected area is a simple yet effective way to relieve TMJ pain and discomfort. To do this, you can use a warm, damp towel or a heating pad wrapped in a moist cloth. Place the moist heat pack over the jaw joint and surrounding muscles for about 15-20 minutes at a time. The warmth helps to increase blood flow to the area, relax tense muscles, and alleviate pain and stiffness. Make sure the heat is not too hot to avoid burning the skin. You can repeat this process multiple times throughout the day, as needed, to find relief from TMJ symptoms.

Practice Relaxation Techniques:

Engaging in relaxation techniques is a beneficial approach to alleviating TMJ discomfort. Deep breathing exercises, such as mindful breathing, involve inhaling slowly through the nose and exhaling gently through the mouth, promoting relaxation and reducing tension in the jaw muscles. Progressive muscle relaxation involves systematically tensing and then relaxing different muscle groups throughout the body, helping to release overall tension and calm the nervous system. Meditation techniques, including mindfulness meditation and guided imagery, encourage focusing the mind on the present moment or visualizing peaceful scenes to promote relaxation and reduce stress levels. Additionally, gentle yoga poses and stretches can help release tension in the jaw, neck, and shoulders while fostering relaxation and stress relief. Incorporating these relaxation practices into your daily routine can contribute to managing TMJ symptoms effectively and improving overall well-being.

Use Pain Medication:

Using pain medication is a common method to alleviate TMJ discomfort. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) can help reduce inflammation and relieve mild to moderate TMJ pain. These medications work by blocking certain enzymes that cause pain and reducing the brain's perception of discomfort. It's essential to follow the recommended dosage instructions provided on the medication packaging and consult with a healthcare professional if pain persists or worsens. In some cases, prescription-strength pain relievers or muscle relaxants may be necessary to manage severe TMJ pain. However, it's important to use pain medication as directed and not rely solely on it for long-term management of TMJ symptoms. Combining pain medication with other treatments, such as physical therapy, relaxation techniques, or lifestyle modifications, can provide comprehensive relief and improve overall jaw function and comfort.

How to Sleep at Night with TMJ Disorder

Managing TMJ disorder during sleep can be challenging, but implementing certain strategies can help alleviate discomfort and improve sleep quality:

Maintain Proper Sleep Position:

Maintaining a proper sleep position is crucial for individuals with TMJ disorder to minimize discomfort and promote better sleep quality. Sleeping on your back with adequate head and neck support is recommended to ensure proper alignment of the spine and reduce strain on the jaw joint. This position helps distribute weight evenly and prevents excessive pressure on the jaw, reducing the likelihood of TMJ-related pain and stiffness. Avoid sleeping on your stomach, as this can put undue stress on the neck and jaw area, exacerbating TMJ symptoms. Additionally, using a supportive pillow that keeps your head and neck in alignment can further enhance comfort and promote relaxation during sleep. By adopting a proper sleep position, individuals with TMJ disorder can mitigate discomfort and optimize their sleep environment for improved restorative sleep.

Use Orthodontic Appliances:

Using orthodontic appliances can be beneficial for individuals with TMJ disorder to manage symptoms and improve sleep quality. Custom-fitted night guards or splints, prescribed by a dentist, are commonly recommended orthodontic appliances for TMJ patients. These appliances are designed to be worn during sleep and help prevent teeth grinding (bruxism) and reduce jaw clenching, which are common contributors to TMJ pain and discomfort. By creating a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, night guards or splints help protect the teeth from damage caused by grinding and alleviate strain on the jaw joint and surrounding muscles. Additionally, these appliances can promote relaxation of the jaw muscles, leading to decreased TMJ-related pain and stiffness during sleep. It's essential to follow the dentist's recommendations for wearing and caring for orthodontic appliances to ensure optimal effectiveness and comfort. By using orthodontic appliances as part of a comprehensive treatment plan, individuals with TMJ disorder can experience relief from symptoms and enjoy better sleep outcomes.

Tips on Reducing TMJ Irritation While Sleeping

Reducing TMJ irritation while sleeping is essential for managing symptoms and promoting restful sleep. Here are some tips to help minimize discomfort:

Avoid Caffeine and Alcohol:

 Avoiding caffeine and alcohol can help reduce TMJ irritation and improve sleep quality. Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate, which can increase muscle tension and exacerbate TMJ symptoms. Similarly, alcohol can interfere with sleep patterns and cause dehydration, leading to muscle tension and discomfort in the jaw area. By avoiding caffeine and alcohol, especially in the hours leading up to bedtime, individuals with TMJ disorder can minimize irritation and promote relaxation for better sleep. Instead, opt for non-caffeinated beverages like herbal tea or water to stay hydrated and support overall jaw health.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene:

Practicing good sleep hygiene is crucial for individuals with TMJ disorder to manage symptoms and improve sleep quality. This involves maintaining a consistent sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, creating a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to the body that it's time to wind down, and ensuring a comfortable sleep environment that is cool, dark, and quiet. It's also important to limit stimulants like caffeine and alcohol before bedtime, as they can interfere with sleep patterns and exacerbate TMJ symptoms. Additionally, avoiding screen time and engaging in regular physical activity during the day can promote better sleep at night. Managing stress through relaxation techniques such as deep breathing or meditation is also beneficial for reducing tension in the jaw muscles and promoting relaxation. By incorporating these sleep hygiene practices into their nightly routine, individuals with TMJ disorder can improve sleep quality, reduce irritation, and wake up feeling more rested and refreshed.

Side Effects of TMJ

TMJ disorder can have various side effects that affect an individual's daily life and overall well-being. Some common side effects of TMJ disorder include:

Chronic Jaw Pain:

Chronic jaw pain is a common and distressing symptom of TMJ disorder. This persistent discomfort or ache in the jaw joint area can significantly impact daily activities such as eating, speaking, and even yawning. Individuals with TMJ-related jaw pain may experience varying degrees of intensity, ranging from mild discomfort to severe, debilitating pain that interferes with normal functioning. The pain may be constant or intermittent and can radiate to surrounding areas such as the face, ears, and neck. Factors such as stress, teeth grinding (bruxism), jaw clenching, and joint inflammation can exacerbate chronic jaw pain in TMJ disorder. Managing chronic jaw pain often involves a combination of lifestyle modifications, relaxation techniques, pain medication, physical therapy, and, in some cases, dental interventions such as orthodontic appliances or splints. Seeking timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment from a healthcare professional is essential for effectively managing chronic jaw pain associated with TMJ disorder and improving overall quality of life.


Headaches are a common symptom of TMJ disorder, often felt as dull, aching pain in the temples or forehead. They're caused by muscle tension and dysfunction in the jaw joint. Clenching or grinding teeth during sleep can worsen these headaches. Managing TMJ-related headaches involves addressing jaw joint dysfunction, relieving muscle tension, and seeking professional treatment for effective relief.

Can a Night Guard Make TMJ Worse?

While night guards are commonly used to alleviate TMJ symptoms by preventing teeth grinding and jaw clenching, there are instances where they can potentially worsen the condition. Ill-fitted or improperly used night guards may alter the bite or exacerbate muscle tension, leading to increased TMJ discomfort. Additionally, over-reliance on night guards without addressing underlying causes such as stress or misalignment issues may mask symptoms rather than provide long-term relief. Therefore, it's essential to consult with a dentist or healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and personalized treatment to ensure that night guards effectively manage TMJ without worsening the condition.

Seek Help from a Professional

For personalized treatment and management strategies for TMJ, it's crucial to consult a dental or medical professional. Quality Sleep Solutions offers specialized services to address TMJ-related sleep disturbances, providing tailored solutions for improved sleep quality and overall well-being. Don't let TMJ disrupt your sleep any longer—reach out for expert assistance today. Click here for an appointment.

Our Locations

Have Questions?

Get Answers

  • Hidden
    MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
    MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Privacy Policy: We hate SPAM and promise to keep your email address safe.
Please call us if you have any problems with the form.

Obstructive Sleep Apnea Related Issues

Copyright © | Quality Sleep Solutions | Sitemap | Privacy Policy
crossmenuchevron-down Skip to content