woman waking up with pain after grinding teeth during sleep

What Am I Doing In My Sleep to Cause Jaw Pain and Headaches?

It’s been years, actually decades, that I’ve dealt with jaw pain and headaches upon waking up from sleep. It used to be a few times a week, but now it’s pretty much every day. I would describe the pain as a dull ache, but I have sharper pain when touching certain spots on my face.

I’ve tried many different treatments, but I’ve never really figured out what I’m doing in my sleep exactly, when I am doing it, and for how long. If I want to solve this problem, I need to know what exactly to solve.

I’ve been told I have nighttime bruxism based on my symptoms and looking at my nightguards. I recall having two sleep studies over 10 years ago where the first study showed I was grinding my teeth, while another reported no grinding. This matches up with waking up feeling just fine on some days.

However, presently, I still don’t really know what’s actually happening with my mouth, when, and for how long.

What Is Bruxism?

Bruxism is a condition when a person clenches, grinds or gnashes their teeth unconsciously. It can be a daytime or nighttime activity. My bruxism is just at nighttime.

Nighttime bruxism is considered a sleep-related disorder. It can result in headaches, jaw pain, tired muscles, chipped teeth, and more.

So What Am I Doing in My Sleep?

This is what I’m planning on trying to find out. I know that many years ago I’ve seen grooves in my nightguards, so there has to be some grinding going on (at least in the past). I’ve even broken a nightguard or two.

In recent years, however, my significant other has never mentioned hearing me grind my teeth during sleep (and we’ve been married over 5 years). Although I haven’t worn a nightguard in over a year, I don’t recall seeing a ton of wear on the plastic in recent years.

If I were to guess, I’m doing some movement with my jaw, but it’s possible my teeth are not touching when it’s happening. Maybe this doesn’t even fit the definition of bruxism.

Regardless, I have a current plan to find out more since I’m just guessing for now.

How I Plan to Figure out What’s Happening

I have decided to purchase a camcorder on Amazon, along with a SD card and tripod, and film myself sleeping throughout the night. I spent under $100 for all of the equipment. The camcorder has nighttime vision built into it.

I’m hoping that I can get a good enough closeup so I can see what is going on with my mouth/jaw.

I won’t obviously be able to see deep inside my mouth, but I hope to see some type of movement that will clue me in on what’s going on.

I have a suspicion that the bruxism or unconscious movement is taking place only at certain times during my sleep. I’ve read that the majority of nighttime bruxism occurs early in the sleep cycle, during stages 1 and 2 of non-REM sleep.

If this plan fails, I will look into whether there’s any other equipment that can monitor the movement of my jaw and how expensive it is. I’ve had another headband type device in the past, but I think it only monitors clenching activity, so I wouldn’t be able to detect anything else.

My Results from Filming

This section here is for my results, so further updates will be posted once I receive everything in the mail and start filming.

Update: I received my camcorder from Amazon with full HD 1080p(30FPS) video and night vision plus a tripod. It took me a few nights to get the recording done properly for my entire sleep. So far, I have viewed one full night sleep of about 6 hours.

I have to say I did not see much jaw movement at least going from side to side. I did see some opening and closing movement (possibly clenching), but it seems tough to really see what’s happening inside my mouth.

I may look into some other device that gives better data on clenching or grinding, if it exists. I did read about a device being developed in 2015 from University of Florida that was a smart mouthguard, but I don’t know whatever happened to it.

Out of curiosity, I have tried using my Apple watch’s sleep tracking app to check my sleep stages and will try to compare to other people. It may be interesting to see which stage I am in when I show jaw movement on the video.

I did also find another device in development called SOVN that appears to be an ear bud used to detect bruxism. I just signed up for their waitlist to find out when it will be released.

I’ve also read about some teeth grinding apps that somehow can tell when you are grinding.

If anyone has any better ideas of how to track my grinding or clenching, please let me know.

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