LifestyleHow to Relax Your Jaw When Sleeping

How to Relax Your Jaw When Sleeping

Do you wake up exhausted in the morning with a sore jaw and tight neck and no idea what you did to beat yourself up in your sleep? If it happens frequently, it’s probably not the effects of a rough dream. Instead, your jaw is clenched tightly because you have bruxism.

Bruxers are a vast group of people around the world who clench their jaw and grind their teeth unconsciously, usually in their sleep. This condition isn’t a big deal at first, but if left untreated, it can lead to painful jaws, misaligned jaw joints, and significant teeth and gum damage.

All of these side effects are easily avoided if you could just manage to relax that pesky jaw when you’re asleep. But how do you avoid something you don’t realize you’re doing? Here, we’ll discuss some tried-and-true techniques to help you give your jaw muscles a chance to recover and you a chance to get some much needed rest.

1. Release Your Stress Before Bed

Although there are multiple reasons you might be bruxing, research shows that stress and anxiety are the main culprit. The built-up stress hormones in your brain are typically released through activity, and if you’re not getting them out of your system before you go to sleep, your brain does it for you with clenching and grinding.

Over time, these actions add even more stress to your day because you begin to feel effects like headaches, tooth sensitivity and discomfort, and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) pain. In fact, many cases of TMJ disorders began with the patient ignoring their bruxing symptoms. (Read more about treating TMJ in this article by JS Dental Lab.)

Tips to Trick the Stress Out of Your Body

So how can you release the stress hormones in your body and give your brain and jaw muscles a break? Try to be as active as possible throughout the day, only slowing down in the evening to get yourself ready for a quiet night. Exercise is great, but if you’re a bruxer, it’s best to get your workout in early so your body isn’t still full of happy hormones like dopamine and adrenaline that keep you alert.

Try journaling your stressful thoughts before bed in one big brain dump, and then reverting to a list of things you’re grateful for. Watch a funny movie, laugh, and do anything that helps you relieve a little tension. Take a few minutes to engage in yoga or meditation.

If all home remedies fail, consider getting counseling to find strategies to help you manage your anxious thoughts and stressful situations.

2. Practice Jaw Muscle Relaxation Exercises

Relaxing and exercising might seem like opposites, but you can actually work your jaw muscles out to teach them to relax by reminding the jaw of its proper resting position.

Open your jaw as wide as possible to get a good stretch (no pain). Keep that position for five seconds, then close your mouth to its natural state with your lips slightly parted. Open again, stretch, and hold. Repeat five times.

After you finish your exercises, grab a warm compress and hold it against the painful side of your face. The warmth soothes your jaw muscles and helps you get into a tranquil, sleep-ready state.

3. Skip the Alcohol and Caffeine

Getting your jaw muscles to stop moving is a whole-body job. If you’re stimulated anywhere, it’s more likely that you’re going to clench and grind. To that end, if you drink alcohol or caffeinated products, try staying away from them. If you can’t quit altogether, put a time limit on your last drink. 

Make sure it’s at least six hours before bed so you have time to work the stimulants out of your body. You may not feel the effects anymore because the levels in your bloodstream have peaked long ago (about an hour after you drink), but caffeine doesn’t leave your system for ten hours or longer.

Since alcohol is a diuretic, it might put you to sleep, but it will make your body more active and causing you to get up to go to the bathroom. If you ignore the urge subconsciously, your brain will still be uncomfortable enough to feel stimulated and grind.

4. Wear a Night Guard

The first line of defense between your teeth and your jaw muscles is a night guard. Of course, you want to stop bruxing altogether by releasing stress, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and practicing those exercises, but in the meantime, you can still protect your teeth.

Investing in a custom-made night guard is the surest way to keep your top and bottom teeth from touching. It won’t stop the jaw movements, but it will prevent the grinding from causing damage to your enamel. It also keeps your jaw from gaining the traction it needs to get that strong bite force, so your muscles can relax.


Tight jaws might be normal with bruxism, but they’re still no fun. The good news is that it’s possible to reduce the symptoms of clenching and grinding by getting your jaw to behave overnight and rest. Follow these four tips, and you’re on your way to a full night of high-quality slumber!

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