3 minute read

Why do I grind my teeth in my sleep? Causes, effects, and solutions

By Joe Young | Medically reviewed by Dr Luke Pratsides

Sleeping issues like grinding your teeth are easy to ignore and you might think there's no point in taking action if it doesn't affect your day-to-day life.

But is this really true?

Let’s take a look. 

What are the causes of teeth grinding?

It's not hunger that makes your teeth move in the night - your subconscious isn't looking for a midnight snack. Teeth grinding is a result of a combination of physical and psychological factors:

Stress and anxiety: Stress triggers several responses in your body. Bowel movements, flatulence, and nausea are just a few examples. The havoc that stress can cause to your body can even include teeth grinding, as you subconsciously try to relieve tension in the mind.

Sleep disorders: Like its louder cousin, snoring, teeth grinding can also be a symptom of sleep apnoea. In addition to difficulty breathing during sleep, sleep apnea can also lead to anxiety and stress, resulting in teeth grinding.

Dental problems: You know the old saying, you can't put a round peg in a square hole. This also applies to your teeth. If they don’t fit together properly, it puts stress on the jaw muscles.

What are the effects of teeth grinding?

Teeth grinding shouldn't be ignored. It can lead to a number of negative effects on your pearly whites and health in general. 

For instance:

  • Damage to teeth

  • Pain in the jaw and teeth

  • Headaches

  • Tinnitus

  • Sleep problems

  • Mouth ulcers

So what can I do about it?

Along with waking up your partner from the grating sounds, teeth grinding is a problem or a symptom of a bigger one. Seeing a dentist regularly could help alleviate any issues. They can check your teeth for signs of damage and make sure that your bite is aligned properly. 

Treatment might include a nightguard to protect your teeth from grinding and clenching, massage therapy to relax the muscles in your jaw, stress management techniques, or medications to help.

There are other ways to prevent teeth grinding with better sleep hygiene, such as:

  • Avoiding caffeine and alcohol before bed: Caffeine can cause increased tension in your jaw and neck muscles exacerbating teeth grinding and alcohol interrupts sleep patterns which can trigger muscles to become hyperactive making you more likely to grind your teeth.

  • Creating a relaxing bedtime routine: A relaxing bedtime routine can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which can in turn prevent teeth grinding.

  • Getting regular exercise: Exercise can help to reduce stress and anxiety, which might alleviate teeth grinding.

The numan take

Problems in your sleep are easy to ignore, but that doesn't mean you should. Teeth grinding can lead to a variety of health problems and might be a symptom of stress. Take action before the issue deteriorates.