There is a lot of buzz about sleep disorders and in particular, sleep apnea. But there’s another culprit that might be causing you to wake up with sore neck, headache or feeling tired. Teeth grinding, clenching, or bruxism is classified as a habitual sleep disorder. And, while you might think you don’t grind because you know you snore your mouth open, you may, in fact, do both.
When you fall asleep, your higher brain shuts down, the autonomic nervous system takes over and muscle activity is out of your control. You might think you’re not grinding because you know that you snore, but in fact, every time you swallow, your jaw muscles contract and your teeth clench anywhere from a second to a couple of minutes before relaxing.
During these moments, breathing stops similar to sleep apnea. Usually, a snorer cycles between snoring, swallowing, clenching, stopping breathing, opening the mouth, gasping and starting snoring again. People do this because they cannot breathe through their nose adequately so that enough oxygen gets in the blood and into the brain. The brain then switches to mouth breathing. Mouth breathing arouses the autonomic nervous system out of autopilot into the primed mode.
Grinding can produce jaw-joint issues, wear teeth away, produce headaches, migraines, sinus pain, chronic tooth sensitivity, jaw ache, stiff neck, auditory symptoms, vertigo, and even backache. And over course, over time you could even break a tooth.
Grinding affects millions of people all over the world. While it is true that most people clench their teeth during sleep, many do it so excessively and frequently that the night-time grind ends up harms their teeth and their overall health.
So if you’ve experienced some of the symptoms listed, you might want to ask your dentist for some help. There are even night guards that can help with both snoring and grinding.