The Best Sleeping Position for TMJ Patients: How to Find the Right Position

white skull on black surface, TMJ

TMJ Sleeping Position

If you have TMJ, then you know that finding the right sleeping position is essential for pain relief.

There are a few different positions that are recommended for TMJ patients, and in this blog post, we will go over all of them so that you can find the one that works best for you.

We will also give you some tips on how to get into these positions and what to do if your pain is not relieved by any of them.

What is TMJ and how does it impact sleep?

Temporomandibular Joint Syndrome (TMJ syndrome), also known as Temporomandibular Joint Disorder (TMD), refers to a group of conditions that affect the temporomandibular joint and the surrounding muscles involved in jaw movement and affects the joint that attaches the lower jaw to the temporal bones at the side of the head.

woman with red lipstick and black mascara

This joint is responsible for moving the jaw up and down, side to side, and forward and backward, allowing us to talk, chew, yawn, and swallow. When a person has TMJ, this joint and the muscles responsible for chewing are not functioning properly, causing facial pain, head and neck pain, and ear pain.

During the night, tension in the muscles can make it difficult to find a comfortable sleeping position that doesn’t cause pain. This can lead to tossing and turning, which can leave a person feeling tired and irritable in the morning.

TMJ is a very individualized condition, and the causes and symptoms are specific to each person. It’s important to evaluate how you sleep and how your sleep habits may be affecting your TMJ symptoms in order to manage them effectively and achieve a better night’s sleep.

Here is some key information about TMJ syndrome:

  1. Definition: TMJ syndrome encompasses a range of symptoms that affect the temporomandibular joint, which connects the jawbone to the skull. It can cause pain, discomfort, and dysfunction in the jaw joint and associated muscles.
  2. Causes: The exact causes of TMJ syndrome are often multifactorial and can include factors such as jaw injury, jaw misalignment, teeth grinding (bruxism), stress, arthritis, and structural issues in the joint.
  3. Symptoms: Common symptoms of TMJ syndrome may include jaw pain or tenderness, difficulty or discomfort while chewing, clicking or popping sounds in the jaw, locking of the jaw joint, headaches, earaches, facial pain, and neck or shoulder pain, sleep deprivation, orofacial pain, migraines, insomnia, fatigue, dry mouth, gum disease
  4. Diagnosis: TMJ syndrome can be diagnosed through a combination of a physical examination, medical history review, and imaging tests such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRI scans to evaluate the condition of the jaw joint and surrounding structures.
  5. Treatment: Treatment for TMJ syndrome can vary depending on the severity of symptoms and underlying causes. It may involve a combination of self-care measures, such as applying moist heat or ice packs, practicing relaxation techniques, avoiding hard or chewy foods, and practicing good posture. Other treatment options include dental splints or mouthguards, physical therapy, pain medications, muscle relaxants, and, in severe cases, surgery.

What factors should you consider when choosing a sleeping position with TMJ?

1. TMJ: Jaw Pain

When choosing a sleeping position with TMJ, it is important to consider the alignment of your jaw and neck. Sleeping on your back with a supportive pillow can help keep your spine, neck, and jaw in a neutral position, reducing pressure on the jaw joint and relieving pain. Sleeping on your side with a pillow between your knees can also help keep your spine and jaw aligned. It is important to avoid sleeping on your stomach, which can put pressure on the jaw and neck.

Additionally, using a mouthguard at night can help prevent teeth grinding and clenching, which can exacerbate TMJ pain. Experiment with different sleeping positions and pillow support to find what works best for you.

Remember, everyone’s TMJ is unique and what works for one person may not work for another. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional for personalized advice and treatment options.

2. TMJ: Jaw Joint Alignment

Jaw joint alignment plays a significant role in sleep quality for TMJ patients. Improper alignment can cause pain and discomfort, making it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. Finding the right sleeping position can alleviate jaw pain and ensure proper alignment of the jaw joint during sleep.

3. TMJ: Jaw Muscle Relaxation

For TMJ patients jaw muscle relaxation is important to prevent teeth clenching and grinding which can worsen TMJ pain. One tip for achieving jaw muscle relaxation is to place the tip of your tongue behind your upper teeth and suction the rest of your tongue to the roof of your mouth. This helps to keep your jaw muscles relaxed throughout the night.

Another tip is to avoid placing your arms near your head, as this can strain your neck and cause more jaw pain. It’s also important to choose the right pillow, such as an orthopaedic pillow, to provide support and minimize tension in the neck and head.

4. TMJ: Sleep Apnea

TMJ disorder can lead to sleep apnea, a condition characterized by disrupted breathing during sleep due to an obstructed airway. Sleep apnea can cause TMJ patients to wake up feeling tired and irritable, robbing them of the sleep they need to function during the day.

5. TMJ: Snoring

Sleeping on your back can cause the soft tissues in your mouth to collapse into your throat and obstruct your airway, leading to snoring and potentially exacerbating TMJ symptoms.

Choose a pillow that supports your neck and head, practicing bedtime yoga and incorporating calming deep pressure activities can also help you relax and find a comfortable sleeping position.

6. TMJ: Airway Obstruction

Keeping the airway open is crucial for good quality sleep and reducing symptoms. Sleeping on the back is often recommended as it helps to keep the airway open and reduces snoring and sleep apnea.

Sleeping positions for TMJ patients

For TMJ patients, finding the right sleeping position is utmost important since the chosen sleep position can even change the shape of your face. It’s important to keep in mind a few things when choosing a good sleep position.

  • consider how your head and neck are supported. You may need to invest in a new pillow that offers the support you need.
  • don’t choose a position where your head or neck muscles are strained in any way.
  • determine whether you’ll be likely to clench your jaw or grind your teeth while you’re sleeping in that position.

Here are the most common sleeping positions for TMJ patients:

  1. On Your Back: Sleeping on your back is the best sleep position for TMJ patients as it keeps the neck and back properly aligned without putting any stress on the jaw. Train your body to fall asleep in this position
  2. On Your Side: Sleeping on your side can be damaging to your overall jaw health and can aggravate your TMJ pain.
  3. On Your Stomach: This position is the worst sleeping position for TMJ patients as it puts pressure on the jaw, leading to grinding of the teeth or clenching of the jaw.

Remember to listen to your body and try different positions until you find what works best for you. Don’t choose a position where you feel even a little strain.

Sleeping PositionDescriptionBenefits
Back SleepingLying on your back with a supportive pillowMaintains proper alignment of head, neck, and jaw
Side SleepingSleeping on your side with a supportive pillowReduces pressure on the jaw joint and promotes alignment
Stomach SleepingSleeping on your stomachNot recommended as it can strain the neck and jaw
Pillow SupportUsing a contoured pillow or additional supportProvides better neck and jaw support
Sleeping Positions and Their Effects on TMJ

How to prevent TMJ while sleeping?

To prevent TMJ while sleeping, consider

  • investing in a comfortable mattress and pillow that align your spine and support your head and neck.
  • Avoid sleeping in positions that cause your jaw to rest unnaturally.
  • For those with severe TMJ symptoms, sleeping on your back is best as it keeps your head and neck in alignment and reduces the chance of teeth grinding.
  • Avoid habits like grinding your teeth or clenching your jaw while sleeping.
  • Speak with your TMJ specialist about custom oral appliances to wear at night if necessary.
  • Practice good posture while sleeping and consider exercises like jaw stretches and massages to alleviate TMJ pain and discomfort.

Remember, a good night’s sleep is essential for your body to repair and refresh itself.

Can Hanging a Dream Catcher Help with TMJ Symptoms While Sleeping?

Hanging a dream catcher near your bed can potentially alleviate TMJ symptoms during sleep. The intricate design of a dream catcher helps trap negative energy, promoting relaxation and stress reduction. By choosing the best places and ideas for dream catchers, you create an environment that encourages peaceful slumber, potentially reducing discomfort associated with TMJ.


Are there any pillow options that can help reduce TMJ pain while sleeping?

For TMJ patients, investing in the right pillow can make a huge difference in reducing pain and discomfort while sleeping. There are several pillow options available that provide the necessary support for the head and neck.

  • Some pillows are specifically designed for TMJ disorders and provide moderate to high support, while others are adjustable to fit individual preferences.
  • Memory foam pillows are also a popular option as they contour to the shape of the head and neck for added support.
  • It’s important to prioritize support over softness when choosing a pillow, as this can alleviate tension and overcompensation of facial and neck muscles.

By finding the right pillow that provides proper support and aligns the spine, TMJ patients can improve their quality of sleep and reduce pain.

What can worsen TMJ symptoms during sleep?

Factors that can worsen TMJ symptoms during sleep include

  • teeth grinding and clenching,
  • muscle tension and strain in the head, neck, and shoulders,
  • pressure on the head, neck, and jaw

Can sleep apnea be caused by TMJ disorder?

TMJ disorder and sleep apnea can be related as they both affect the temporomandibular joint. Sleep apnea is characterized by disrupted breathing caused by an obstructed airway, while TMJ disorders occur when the joint complex is damaged or not functioning properly.

TMJ can cause nighttime teeth grinding or jaw clenching, which can lead to snoring or sleep apnea.

Sleep apnea is dangerous, consult a sleep doctor for proper detection of sleep apnea and treatment plans.

How should i sleep with TMJ?

Here are some of my recommendations for sleeping with TMJ:

Moist Heat or Cold Packs: Applying a warm, moist heat pack or a cold pack wrapped in a thin cloth to the affected area before bed may help relax the muscles and reduce inflammation, promoting a more comfortable sleep.

Relaxation Techniques: Prior to sleep, engage in relaxation techniques such as Yoga Nidra, NSDR, deep breathing exercises, meditation, the 478 sleep trick or gentle stretching to help relax the jaw muscles and alleviate tension.

Sleeping with a a weighted blanket: Some individuals with TMJ syndrome may find the gentle pressure and comforting sensation of a weighted blanket soothing and helpful for relaxation. It can potentially promote better sleep and reduce muscle tension. However, it’s essential to assess your personal comfort level and ensure that the weight of the blanket does not put excessive pressure on the jaw or worsen TMJ symptoms.

Oral appliance therapy: If you suffer from severe TMJ symptoms, consider oral appliance therapy to correct both TMJ and sleep apnea.

tmj sleeping position

How to keep jaw aligned while sleeping?

To keep their jaw aligned while sleeping, TMJ patients should consider the following:

  1. Evaluate their mattress and pillow situation to ensure they support the head and neck and align the spine.
  2. Rule out any sleeping positions that cause the jaw to rest in an unnatural position.
  3. Try sleeping on their back as it keeps the neck and back properly aligned without putting stress on the jaw.
  4. Gently stretch the jaw before bedtime.

How to sleep with TMJ ear pain?

TMJ ear pain can be challenging to deal with during sleep, but there are some strategies that may help alleviate discomfort and promote better sleep.

  • Ear Support: If your TMJ ear pain is aggravated by pressure or contact with the pillow, consider using a softer pillow or adding extra cushioning to support your head and ear. Some people find relief by using a small travel pillow or a rolled-up towel to create a supportive barrier between the ear and the pillow.
  • Noise Reduction: TMJ ear pain can be exacerbated by loud noises or disruptions during sleep. Consider using earplugs or a sleeping with a white noise machine to create a more peaceful and quiet sleep environment, reducing any additional stress on your ears.

Is sleeping with mouth open bad for TMJ?

Sleeping with your mouth open can worsen TMJ symptoms. When you sleep with your mouth open, your jaw is relaxed and falls back, causing your tongue to block your airway. This can lead to snoring, sleep apnea, and other breathing problems that can strain your jaw muscles and exacerbate TMJ pain.

To prevent sleeping with your mouth open, try using a mouthguard or chin strap to keep your mouth closed. It’s also important to maintain a healthy sleeping position that can minimize TMJ pain.

Why does TMJ flare up at night?

TMJ can flare up at night due to teeth grinding and jaw clenching, which can cause inflammation and pain in the joint. Nighttime clenching is often caused by the body’s attempt to keep the airway open while sleeping.


By lezt

Lez Taylor, Founder and CEO of Corala Blanket. She tried every sleep system and trick to conquer her insomnia for good.