Teeth Care

Is Sleeping on Your Side Bad for Your TMJ? Exploring the Impact of Sleeping Positions on Jaw Health

is sleeping on your side bad for tmj

Side Sleeping & TMJ

Welcome to our informative article on TMJ and its relationship with sleeping positions. The temporomandibular joint, commonly referred to as TMJ, plays a crucial role in jaw movement and enables us to chew, speak, and yawn. TMJ disorder is a condition that can cause jaw pain, stiffness, clicking, and other discomforts. In this article, we will explore whether sleeping on your side can potentially worsen TMJ symptoms. Join us as we delve into the effects of sleeping positions on TMJ health and provide insights on how to achieve a restful sleep while keeping your jaw happy and pain-free.

What is TMJ disorder?

Before diving into the impact of sleeping positions on TMJ, it’s important to understand the basics of TMJ disorder. The temporomandibular joint, located on each side of the face, connects the jawbone to the skull and facilitates smooth jaw movement.

TMJ disorder can be caused by various factors, including jaw misalignment, teeth grinding, stress, or injury. Common symptoms of TMJ disorder include jaw pain or tenderness, clicking or popping sounds when opening or closing the mouth, difficulty chewing, and even headaches or earaches. It’s essential to recognize these signs and seek proper diagnosis and treatment from a healthcare professional to alleviate discomfort and prevent long-term complications.

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The Impact of Sleeping Positions on TMJ

When it comes to sleep positions and their impact on TMJ, it’s worth exploring the different options. The three main sleeping positions are side sleeping, back sleeping, and stomach sleeping. Each position can potentially affect the temporomandibular joint differently.

Side sleeping is a popular choice for many, but it may put pressure on the jaw joint, leading to discomfort or aggravation of TMJ symptoms. Back sleeping, on the other hand, is often considered the most neutral position for TMJ health as it allows for proper alignment of the head, neck, and jaw. Stomach sleeping, though preferred by some, can potentially strain the neck and jaw. It’s important to understand how your sleeping position can influence your TMJ and make adjustments accordingly for a more comfortable sleep experience.

Sleeping on the Side and TMJ

When considering the relationship between side sleeping and TMJ, there are varying perspectives to consider. Some argue that sleeping on your side can be detrimental to TMJ health. This position can exert pressure on the jaw joint, potentially leading to jaw pain, clicking, or popping sensations. However, it’s important to note that others suggest side sleeping may have benefits for airway alignment and reducing snoring, which can indirectly contribute to better sleep quality.

It’s crucial to remember that each individual is unique, and what works for one person may not work for another. Pay attention to your body’s signals and consider experimenting with different sleeping positions or modifications to find what works best for your TMJ comfort and overall sleep quality. If you have concerns or persistent symptoms, consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance.

Recommendations for TMJ-Friendly Sleep

If you’re looking to promote better sleep and support your TMJ health, there are several recommendations to consider. First, prioritize overall sleep hygiene by establishing a consistent sleep schedule and creating a relaxing bedtime routine. When it comes to side sleeping, there are adjustments you can make to minimize TMJ discomfort.

Consider using a supportive pillow that keeps your head and neck properly aligned, and use a pillow or cushion to provide gentle support to your jaw. Alternatively, you can try sleeping with a rolled-up towel or a small pillow between your shoulder and cheek to relieve pressure on the jaw joint. For those who find it challenging to sleep on their side, exploring alternative sleeping positions such as back sleeping may be worth considering. Remember, finding the right sleep position is a personal journey, so listen to your body and adapt accordingly for a restful and TMJ-friendly sleep experience.

Additional Measures to Manage TMJ

While adjusting your sleep position can help alleviate TMJ discomfort, it’s important to remember that managing TMJ disorder requires a comprehensive approach. In addition to sleep modifications, incorporating lifestyle changes and self-care practices can contribute to overall TMJ management.

These may include stress reduction techniques like meditation or yoga, avoiding hard or chewy foods that can strain the jaw, practicing gentle jaw exercises to improve mobility, and applying warm or cold compresses to reduce inflammation and relieve pain. If your TMJ symptoms persist or worsen, seeking professional treatment options such as physical therapy or wearing a splint may be recommended by a healthcare professional.

Remember, finding the right combination of strategies tailored to your specific needs is essential for effective TMJ management, so don’t hesitate to consult with a healthcare provider for guidance and personalized care.

The Benefits of Wearing a Custom Mouth Guard for TMJ

One effective treatment option for managing TMJ disorder is wearing a custom mouth guard, also known as an occlusal splint or oral appliance. These devices are specifically designed to fit your unique jaw shape and bite. Here are some of the benefits associated with wearing a custom mouth guard:

  1. Pain and Symptom Relief: Custom mouth guards help alleviate TMJ-related pain and discomfort by providing a cushioning effect and reducing the impact of teeth grinding or clenching. By creating a barrier between the upper and lower teeth, they can help reduce stress on the temporomandibular joint, preventing further irritation and promoting relaxation of the jaw muscles.
  2. Teeth Protection: Teeth grinding, a common symptom of TMJ disorder, can lead to excessive wear, fractures, or even tooth loss. Custom mouth guards act as a protective barrier, absorbing the forces generated by teeth grinding and preventing damage to the teeth’s surfaces. They also help distribute the biting forces evenly, reducing the risk of dental complications associated with TMJ disorder.
  3. Jaw Alignment and Stability: A properly fitted custom mouth guard can help optimize jaw alignment and stability. By positioning the jaw in a more favorable position, it promotes proper alignment of the jaw joint and reduces strain on the surrounding muscles. This can result in decreased pain and improved jaw function.
  4. Improved Sleep Quality: TMJ disorder can often disrupt sleep, leading to restless nights and fatigue. Custom mouth guards can assist in reducing nighttime teeth grinding and clenching, allowing for better sleep quality. By minimizing muscle tension and jaw movements during sleep, they contribute to a more relaxed and restorative sleep experience.
  5. Tailored to Your Needs: Unlike over-the-counter mouth guards, custom mouth guards are individually designed to fit your unique mouth structure. They are crafted based on impressions ensuring a precise and comfortable fit. This personalized approach enhances the effectiveness of the mouth guard, providing optimal support and symptom relief for your specific TMJ condition.

It’s important to note that you should consult with a dental professional experienced in treating TMJ disorder. They can assess your specific needs, diagnose the severity of your condition, and provide you with a recommendation for the correct custom-made mouth guard that suits your requirements. With the proper fit and guidance, wearing a custom mouth guard can be a valuable tool in managing TMJ disorder and improving overall jaw health.


In conclusion, the relationship between sleeping positions and TMJ health is a topic that warrants consideration for individuals dealing with TMJ disorder. While side sleeping may potentially exert pressure on the jaw joint and contribute to TMJ discomfort, it’s important to recognize that there are individual variations and personal preferences when it comes to sleep positions.

Finding the right sleep position that supports your TMJ comfort is a unique journey that may require some experimentation. Alongside adjusting your sleep position, incorporating good sleep hygiene practices and exploring lifestyle changes can contribute to overall TMJ management. Remember to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and guidance, as they can provide valuable insights and recommend appropriate treatment options if needed.

By prioritizing your sleep and TMJ health, you can work towards achieving a restful sleep and a more comfortable jaw.

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Ashely Notarmaso

Ashely Notarmaso is the author behind the Sentinel Mouth Guard Blog. She is the CEO and founder of Sentinel Mouth Guards (Founded in 2012) Her long-time work in the dental mouth guard arena and her excellent ability to listen to customer concerns in this often contradictory field has laid the groundwork to explore night guard/mouth guard fabrication in-depth and address real concerns. With the help of her team, she has created a unique fabrication method that promises a great fitting custom oral appliance every time. Amazon’s choice for #1 mouth guard! Visit the online store http://sentinelmouthguards.com

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