Step 3: Improve Your Sleep To Prevent Bruxism

Reducing Your Micro-Arousals Is The Key For Stopping Your Teeth Grinding At Night

While reducing stress is important to stop bruxism, other factors can make you grind your teeth. Ignoring this fact can waste your effort at stopping bruxism. In one study [1], the authors were able to induce bruxism episodes in sleepers by provoking micro-arousals through sensory stimuli. Making noise, or touching someone who sleep for example, can cause that person to grind their teeth.

Sleep bruxism is therefore in most cases an arousal reaction. It can be triggered by an abrupt lightening of sleep and manifests itself during transition from sleep to wakefulness. The less stimuli during your sleep, the less teeth grinding. Step 3 is all about eliminating any sleep disturbances to prevent bruxism.

Follow those advices to improve your sleep and reduce your micro-arousals:

1. Stick to an orderly, regular sleep schedule

In order to attain and maintain a deep, refreshing sleep-stage regime, make sure to go to bed and set your alarm at the same time every day, even on the weekend. Having a regular sleep schedule will regulate your hormones and allow you to get a deeper sleep. The worst thing you can do is have an irregular work schedule. Working some days during the night and others during the day has been linked with bruxism.

Avoid using your laptop or cellphone before going to sleep. The luminosity of the screen can disrupt your sleep.

Avoid using your laptop or cellphone before going to sleep. The luminosity of the screen can disrupt your sleep.

2. Sleep in a environment as dark as possible

Install good window coverings to block as much light as possible in your bedroom. Researchers found that sleeping for several hours in nighttime darkness promotes a healthy blood level of a hormone called melatonin. [2] A higher level of melatonin means less chance of having micro-arousals during your sleep, preventing the risk of bruxism.

3. Get a better sleep with earplugs

City noise, roommates, the air conditioning going on and off, those are all possible causes of micro-arousals. Wearing earplugs while sleeping will help your nervous system relax and stay in deep sleep longer. This will reduce your chances of grinding your teeth during your sleep.  Don’t worry about not hearing your alarm clock, earplugs still enable you to hear such noises.

Bruxism can be a side effect of sleep apnea, which is cause by a restriction of airflow while sleeping on your back.

Bruxism can be a side effect of sleep apnea, which is cause by a restriction of airflow when you sleep on your back.

4. Avoid sleeping on your back

Sleeping on your back should be avoided because it causes the jaw to be located further back. This position contributes to a narrowing of the airway during sleep. This can result in snoring and in severe cases, sleep apnea. Bruxism and snoring were found to be closely related. [3] There is a chance your bruxism could be caused by sleeping on your back.


 5. Make sure you don’t suffer from sleep apnea

Sleep apnea increased your risk of bruxism. Sleep apnea and snoring reduce your oxygen level, which in turn disturbs your sleep. To free your airway, sleep on your side. Just because you think you sleep fine does not mean that you don’t suffer from sleep apnea. When you slow down or stop breathing your brain alerts your body, causing teeth grinding. These awakenings are so short that you may not ever remember them. Common signs of sleep apnea are snoring, waking up gasping for air and daytime fatigue.

Sleeping on your side can be hard. If you have the tendency to wake up on your back even though you went to sleep on your side, I recommend you try taping a tennis ball on the back of your pajamas. Alternately, you can also take a t-shirt with a pocket, and wear it backward so that the pocket is on your back. Add a pair of socks or a tennis ball inside the pocket. This should prevent you from sleeping on your back. Compare to the expensive and potentially dangerous surgical apnea treatments, the tennis ball solution is simple and effective.

cpap machine and teeth grinding

For some people, their bruxism is caused by sleep apnea or upper airway resistance. In this case, a cpap machine will help eliminate any teeth grinding.

However, for some people, teeth grinding at night is caused by what is called Upper Airway Resistance Syndrome. In this case, sleeping on your stomach can also cause difficult breathing and micro-arousals. The solution in this case is to use a cpap machine. This machine helps you breathe normally while you are asleep.

If you suspect suffering from sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome, consult your doctor as soon as possible.

Some signs of those sleep disorders are:

  • unrefreshing sleep
  • frequent awakenings
  • hypertension
6. Prevent gastroesophageal reflux
Avoid eating greasy food and drinking carbonated drinks before going to bed.

Avoid eating greasy food and drinking carbonated drinks before going to bed.

People with gastroesophageal reflux wake up more during sleep and therefore also tend to grind their teeth more. To prevent reflux:

  1. Avoid eating greasy food and drinking carbonated drinks or coffee
  2. Don’t smoke
  3. Lose weight if you are overweight or obese
  4. Don’t eat late at night
  5. Raise the headboard of your bed by 4 to 6 inches
  6. Chew your food slowly, making it easier for your stomach to digest.

How do you know if you have gastroesophageal reflux? Common signs are:

  • Chest pain
  • Chronic cough
  • Teeth erosion
  • Burning sensation in the chest


Follow those 6 recommendations to improve your sleep and make teeth grinding a thing of your past.

Don’t forget STEP 1 and STEP 2 if you haven’t applied them already.

Marc Livingston
  1. Hello Marc,

    Could you please elaborate on what you mean in the 5th suggestion, raise the headboard of your bed by 4 to 6 inches, in preventing gastroesophageal reflux.

    Thank you for your time.



    • For some people, their barrier between their stomach and esophagus isn’t working properly. When lying down in bed, this problem often get worse. Hence, some people recommend inclining your bed a little to prevent this condition.

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