Sleep Positioning Therapy: Change the Way You Sleep and Improve Your Sleep Apnea and TMJ Symptoms

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Did you know that sleep apnea can be related to Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) disorder, particularly if you have been suffering from symptoms such as chronic headaches? TMJ affects your jaw joints where the lower jaw connects to the upper jaw and can leave you with jaw pain along with pain in the head, neck and shoulder areas.


More and more, sleep research is showing that TMJ disorder can lead to sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, and in particular, Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). So if you are constantly clenching your jaw and grinding your teeth in your sleep because of TMJ/TMD, you can find yourself experiencing painful headaches when you wake up. The Journal of Dental Research conducted a study that found that those with OSA symptoms had a 73 percent greater rate of also experiencing TMJ/TMD symptoms.

Thankfully, there are many options available to help treat sleep apnea. One treatment you can try is to evaluate your current sleep position and change it for a better one. Known as positional therapy, it can benefit how you breathe while you sleep. Let’s look at the four typical sleep positions and how they can help or exacerbate your sleep apnea.

Rated #1: Left-Side Sleeping Position

The Sleep Better Council recommends side-sleeping as it helps relieve problems like insomnia and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), which tend to exacerbate your sleep apnea symptoms. Side Sleeping also promotes optimal blood flow while offering the least resistance to your breathing. To get the best rest, your preferred sleep position should contribute to your sleep quality. Start with a firm pillow that supports both your neck and back, and try sleeping on your side. It should reduce snoring and help you breathe better.

Rated #2: Right-Side Sleeping Position

If for some reason you can’t sleep on your left side, try sleeping on your right side instead for better sleep results. Right-side sleeping also lessens snoring while offering you better air flow and blood flow for your body’s needs.

Rated #3: Prone Sleeping Position

Prone sleeping is basically just sleeping on your stomach. When it comes to sleep apnea, it’s actually not the worst position to sleep in. Thanks to gravity, the tongue and soft oral tissues fall forward, preventing airway obstructions and reducing snoring. Just don’t bury your face into your pillow or let it cover part of your mouth as this can interfere with getting enough air.

Rated #4: Supine (back) Sleeping Position

Sleeping on your back is the worst position if you snore or have sleep apnea. Unlike stomach sleeping, back sleeping allows the soft oral tissues in your upper airways (tongue, adenoids and uvula) to fall back, leaving you with resistance in the upper airway. This is known as positional obstructive sleep apnea. We encourage you to get yourself a supportive pillow and experiment with side sleeping so you can breathe properly.

As you can see, how you sleep is just as crucial as the number of hours you sleep, and getting a good night’s sleep is essential for your health. You can incorporate positional therapy into your sleep apnea treatment by training yourself to adapt to a healthier sleeping position. This can vastly improve your quality of life by supporting your day-to-day function. If you want to learn more about treating sleep apnea, we invite you to give our team a call and schedule a consultation. We look forward to helping you get a good night’s rest!