Sleep Related Bruxism

What is Sleep-Related Bruxism?

Sleep-related bruxism is a medical condition characterized by clenching and grinding your teeth during sleep. This condition is also known as nocturnal bruxism. Sleep-related bruxism is considered a sleep disorder because it can interfere with normal sleep patterns and cause sleep disruption. Sleep-related bruxism is most common in children. Other risk factors include hyperactivity, anxiety, antidepressants, family history, excessive caffeine, substance misuse, and other conditions such as sleep apnea, night terrors, acid reflux, and epilepsy.

Types of Bruxism

There are two types of bruxism: sleep bruxism and daytime bruxism. Sleep-related bruxism is a type of clenching or grinding that happens during sleep. It is the most common type of bruxism, and it often goes unnoticed. Daytime bruxism is a type of clenching or grinding that happens during the day while you are awake.

Signs & Symptoms

The most noticeable sign of bruxism is disturbed sleep and pain.

Common bruxism symptoms include:

  • Waking up—Pain or loud clicking in your jaw disturbs your sleep.
  • Grinding teeth—Teeth grinding can occur during the day or night. You may not be aware that you're engaging in teeth grinding during sleep.
  • Clenching Teeth—Teeth clenching is often done during the day in response to stress. You might also clench your teeth at night while you sleep.
  • Jaw stiffness—Prolonged clenching or teeth grinding at night can make your jaw feel still and sore.
  • Jaw pain—Discomfort in your jaw and face are common.
  • Earache—Your ears feel like they hurt but the cause of the discomfort is not your ears.
  • Neck pain—Your neck may hurt from teeth grinding at night.
  • Damaged teeth—Grinding your teeth while sleeping can flatten, chip, or loosen your teeth.
  • Teeth sensitivity—You might have trouble eating and drinking because of sensitive teeth.
  • Headache—You may develop a dull, constant headache. 
  • Temple pain—Your temples might ache.
  • Cheek damage—When you grind your teeth at night, you might unintentionally chew on the inside of your cheek.


There are primary and secondary causes of bruxism.

Primary bruxism causes:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Genetics
  • Psychological reasons
  • Changing sleep patterns

Secondary bruxism causes:

  • Smoking
  • Caffeine
  • Alcohol
  • Snoring
  • Depression


Bruxism can be diagnosed by a doctor or dentist. The diagnostic process can vary depending on the type of health professional providing care, but generally includes observations tests, sleep studies, and polysomnograms.

Observational Tests

Observational tests involve a health professional observing you for signs and symptoms of bruxism. A home observation test may also be recommended. In a home observation test, you wear a special set of medical electrodes that record when you clench or grind your teeth.


A polysomnogram is a sleep study usually conducted in a sleep laboratory. You will be connected to sensors that measure various body functions during sleep, such as brain waves, eye movements, heart rate, and breathing. This test can help determine if bruxism is associated with another sleep disorder. It also helps identify the severity of your condition.

Dental Examination

A dentist might conduct a dental examination to look for signs of tooth wear or damage. Your dentist may also ask about your symptoms and medical history.


Bruxism treatment is either medication-based or not medication-based. Some cases of bruxism do not require any treatment.

Medication-Based Treatment

There is no specific medication for bruxism, but there are medications that can help to reduce stress or anxiety, which may help to reduce bruxism. Your doctor might prescribe muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and other drugs that minimize muscle movement. Botox is sometimes also used to treat bruxism.

Non-Medicine Treatments

The most common non-medication-based bruxism treatments are stress reduction, mouth guards, and dental care.

Reducing stress can help to reduce or eliminate bruxism. Stress reduction techniques include exercise, yoga, breathing techniques, meditation, and therapy.

Mouthguards can help protect your teeth from damage caused by clenching and grinding. Dentists can custom-make mouthguards, or you can purchase them over the counter.

Regular dental checkups and cleanings can help prevent damage to your teeth. In severe cases, dental treatment may be necessary to repair damage caused by bruxism.


You can help prevent bruxism with exercise, sleep conditions, emotional management, and eating habits.

Home care tips to prevent bruxism:

  • Avoid hard foods
  • Practice deep breathing
  • Practice yoga
  • Practice meditation
  • Do mouth exercises
  • Improve range of motion
  • Adjust pillows for head support

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