Waking with a sore jaw can set you up for a bad day. It can make it hard to eat breakfast, hard to talk to people, and can put you in a terrible mood. What can you do about this problem? That depends on what’s causing your jaw problems. Here are seven possible reasons why you might be waking with a sore jaw. A jaw pain journal can be helpful for isolating which of these answers might be right.

You’re Sleeping in a Bad Position

Sleeping in a bad position for you could cause a sore jaw. While there’s no one best position for jaw health, it’s important to consider how your position could be affecting your jaw and adjust, if necessary.

Sleeping on your stomach and turning your head to the side can stress your neck and jaw muscles. This can also be a problem if you’re a side sleeper but don’t have a supportive pillow. Sleeping on your back might seem like the ideal solution, and it does put the least direct pressure on your jaw.

However, sleeping on your back does increase the risk of sleep apnea, which could potentially stress your jaw (more on this later).

You Don’t Have a Good Pillow For TMJ

We mentioned that having a supportive TMJ pillow can help reduce tension if you’re a side sleeper. As a side sleeper, you need to get enough support for your head and neck, but if a pillow is too high, it can also cause more tension. But with other pillows, you might push or burrow into the pillow, which can put pressure on your jaw.

In truth, there isn’t a single best pillow, but it’s something you should consider if you’re suffering regular jaw pain in the morning. Try a few different pillows and see if they make a difference.

It Could Be Something You Ate (or Drank or Smoked)

Naturally, you might want to link jaw pain to food. After all, that’s mostly what you do with your jaw, right? And it’s true, if you notice that eating a particular meal or snack leads to jaw pain the next day, then the two might be related.

But chewing isn’t the only way that food can impact your jaw pain at night. Bruxism is one of the leading causes of jaw pain in the morning, and this clenching and grinding behavior can be linked to caffeine or alcohol consumption in the evening. It has also been linked to smoking.

You Might Be Stressed

Sleep is supposed to relieve all the day’s woes, but it’s not so simple as that. Often, the day’s cares can haunt us even in our sleep. Stress can make you clench and grind during the day, and it can do the same while you’re sleeping.

Check this by paying attention to how your jaw pain correlates to your stress levels. If more stress means more jaw pain, then there might be a connection.

Try different relaxation methods to help you sleep. If you can’t achieve relaxation on your own, consider getting help from a counselor–these approaches are very successful.

Exercise Could Be the Cause

Your exercise couldn’t be causing your jaw pain, could it? If you’re not exercising, you might think it’s unaffected by your routine. However, many exercises can lead to jaw pain in the morning, especially if you exercise in the evening. If you are doing high impact exercises, you r jaw joint could suffer from the jarring motion. After all, the jawbone does not have bone to support it, it hangs suspended by soft tissue.

Other exercises can cause strain that gets passed on to your jaw. This is especially true of upper body exercises like weightlifting. If you are clenching your jaw while lifting, that could be the cause of your jaw pain.

Some people feel pain while exercising, but others don’t feel the effects until the next day. If you rotate different exercises, see which ones might be linked to mornings of jaw pain by noting your routines in your jaw pain journal.

Sleep Apnea Could Be the Cause

Are you waking up sleepy? Have you been told that you snore? If that’s the case, you might have sleep apnea, and that could be part of the reason why your jaw is sore.

In obstructive sleep apnea, your airway closes at night, cutting off your breathing. You partly awake to restore breathing, but your body might also clench your jaw to help hold your airway open. Since you might experience hundreds of apneic events a night, this could mean a lot of clenching.

It Might Be Temporomandibular Joint Disorders (TMJ or TMD)

You should suspect temporomandibular joint disorders (called TMJ or TMD) if you have jaw pain at any time. There are many forms of TMJ, and it can be linked to other potential causes above. They are especially common in people with sleep apnea, with half of sleep apnea sufferers having some form of TMJ.

The overlap between TMJ and sleep apnea is particularly important, because many sleep apnea treatments can be bad for your TMJ if they’re not designed properly. If you are waking with jaw pain in the morning and feel like you’re not getting enough rest, no matter how long you’re in bed, you should talk to a sleep dentist who is skilled at treating both conditions.

Let Us Help

If you are experiencing jaw pain frequently and can’t figure out the cause, let us help. We have instruments that can give us scientific measurements of your jaw conditions that can help with definitive diagnosis of the cause.

To get help with jaw pain in the Detroit area, please call (248) 480-0085 today for an appointment with a TMJ dentist at the Michigan Center for TMJ & Sleep Wellness in Rochester Hills.