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A TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre of St. Louis patient experiencing great sleep after their diagnosis and treatment.

Educational Resources About Sleep Apnea and TMJ

  • TMJ Sleep Therapy Centre of St. Louis

A Guide to Good Sleep: The Health Impacts of Sleep Deprivation

It’s only 10 a.m., and the coffee has already worn off. You feel tired and sluggish and want a nap. You make your way to the kitchen and pour another cup. As lunch draws closer, the lethargy strengthens its grip. Nothing helps. Each day seems to mirror this pattern: sluggishness, lack of concentration, and irritability. You know why the day is so long. You can’t sleep, haven’t been able to sleep. The jaw pain is worse at night. Or maybe it’s sleep apnea that thrusts you awake as you struggle to catch a breath.


The health impacts of sleep deprivation are serious. As the sleep hour deficits increase, so does the struggle to focus and function. Patients who are diagnosed with sleep apnea or temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders might be unable to enjoy a restful night of sleep. TMJ causes jaw pain or headaches; for some individuals, the pain can reverberate to other areas. Individuals with sleep apnea suffer from irregular breathing patterns; the breathing pauses might jolt them awake. 

How much sleep is the right amount? What are the health impacts of those restless nights? Discover the answers in this guide to good sleep. 

Table of Contents: 

How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Physical Health? 

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Mental Health 

How Much Sleep Do I Need? 

How to Sleep with TMJ 

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Sleep Deprivation 

10 Ways to Aid Sleep


No one should suffer from sleep deprivation. Learn the health impacts of sleep patterns and be proactive about seeking treatment to alleviate the pain of TMJ and the breathing concerns related to obstructive sleep apnea.


How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect Physical Health?

Sleep serves a functional purpose for the body. Our nightly rest slows down our heart rate, helps our systems recalibrate, and makes us feel refreshed in the morning. Sleep is essential for every system in the body. Our immune system requires rest for optimal function; when we battle an illness, the body encourages us to sleep. 

Without adequate sleep, the body is unable to recharge and repair. We are likelier to get sick because our immune system isn’t functioning adequately. The Centers for Disease Control explains that sleep deprivation also can lead to heart problems; those who do not clock enough sleep are prone to elevated blood pressure, which can lead to a heart attack or stroke. 

The CDC warns that sleep deprivation also can cause both obesity and Type 2 Diabetes. When the body is deprived of sleep, it cannot control hunger properly; thus, an individual might overeat. Lack of sleep also throws off insulin and causes the breakdown of sugar. 

Anyone who had a restless night might also have noticed that they craved carbs. This is the body’s way to recharge; carbs convert to sugar, releasing energy. 

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Mental Health 

The detrimental impact of sleep deprivation reverberates across all aspects of well-being. Mental health also becomes compromised when the body is not properly rested. Sleep deprivation leads to confusion, increased anxiety, irritability, and depression. 

Columbia Psychology News highlighted the link between mental health and sleep, and the publication interviewed Elizabeth Blake Zekelin, an assistant professor of psychology (in Psychiatry) and a clinical psychologist at the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders. Dr. Zekelin explained that “ is now recognized that sleep problems can also contribute to the onset and worsening of different mental health problems, including depression, anxiety, and even suicidal ideation.” 

How Much Sleep Do I Need? 

Clocking enough shut-eye is crucial to health and wellness. How much sleep is enough? Sleep needs can vary from individual to individual. However, The NIH Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute explains that experts recommend that adults sleep at least seven to nine hours each night. Sleeping less than seven hours is simply not enough.

To understand how sleep needs vary by age, use these recommendations from the National Sleep Foundation: 

Age Sleep Recommendation

0-3 months 14-17 hours

4-12 months 12-16 hours (time includes naps)

1-2 years 11-14 hours (time includes naps)

3-5 years (preschool) 10-13 hours (this includes naps)

6-12 years 9-12 hours

13-18 years 8-10 hours

18-60 years More than 7 hours

After the age of 60, sleep needs increase slightly. Some seniors opt to take a nap during the day, which also accounts for their daily sleep. In general, adults should clock at least seven hours for optimum health. 

How to Sleep with TMJ 

TMJ causes patients to experience pain and discomfort in their jaws and cheeks. TMJ pain also reverberates and can lead to headaches or other pain. TMJ's discomfort might worsen at night, and sufferers might experience trouble sleeping. 

How do you sleep with TMJ? Certain pillows could provide better support during sleep; these pillows might elevate the head and soothe jaw pain. Over-the-counter medications also provide relief; for example, taking acetaminophen or ibuprofen before bedtime could help minimize discomfort. 

Remediating the underlying cause of TMJ is the most proactive response, however. The TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre focuses on treating the source of the problem. Mitigating the pain only masks the condition; to aid sleep and health, the condition requires adequate therapy. 

Sleeping with TMJ and treating the condition go hand-in-hand. Dr. Frith treats this condition by creating customized mouthguards that reposition the jaw. Patients wear one guard during the day and another while they sleep. The guard should minimize pain as it aligns the jaw's position. 

The Link Between Sleep Apnea and Sleep Deprivation

While TMJ sufferers often lie awake because of pain, sleep apnea typically wakes patients during the night. Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) interferes with proper airflow; the airway is blocked by tissue or another obstruction, and the individual struggles to breathe. The irregular breathing causes them to wake up. As a result, they may feel exhausted the next morning. 

Sleep apnea can be incredibly dangerous, and, in severe cases, it can be fatal. Many cases of OSA are treatable, though. Ultimately, helping an individual sleep better requires eliminating the obstruction. 

The TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre uses a variety of treatments and therapies to remediate OSA. Laser therapies like NightLase tighten excess tissue that causes sleep disturbances. Other patients might suffer from sleep apnea because of a misaligned jaw that also has caused TMJ. In cases where TMJ leads to sleep apnea, the treatment protocol typically includes customized mouth guards or clear aligners that correctly position the jaw. 

10 Simple Ways to Recalibrate the Body and Aid Sleep After Treatment 

When patients are receiving treatments and therapies to correct sleep apnea and TMJ, they may still have anxiety about sleeping. When disrupted sleep becomes the norm, it might take time to help the body overcome the expectation that sleep leads to a restless nightmare of a night. 

Encourage the body to prepare for a good night of sleep by embracing these 10 sleep-positive habits: 

1. Create a bedtime routine. A night routine isn't just for kids. Set a bedtime and stick to it. More importantly, prepare for that bedtime. If you know you need to be asleep by 10 p.m., start a sleep routine at 9 p.m. Take a bath, read a book, or meditate. Make sure to focus on relaxing habits before bed. 

2. Ditch the devices and screens. Blue light interferes with the body's natural circadian rhythm. At least one hour before bedtime, shut down the computer, put down the smartphone, and turn off the television. 

3. Read a book. Yes, reading a book helps you sleep! This is why it's often recommended as part of a great bedtime routine. 

4. Turn down the thermostat. Cooler temperatures help you sleep better. Drop the temperature a few degrees; this could lead to savings during winter! 

5. Remember that the bed is for the bed. Don't eat in bed, watch television in bed, or play on the phone in bed. Treat the bedroom as a place to sleep and unwind only. This helps train the body to respond to the bedroom as a space

for relaxation. 

6. Listen to heartbeat music. Music or songs that are 60 beats per minute match the resting heart rate; this aids sleep. 

7. Use essential oil to calm the body. Certain scents like lavender and chamomile relax the body; add a few drops to a bath or a sachet on the pillow. The scents evoke sleep.

8. Write down your worries. There are many nights when the mind becomes the body's worst enemy. Before bed, journal worries or write must-do tasks for the next day. This act of writing helps put those thoughts to rest. 

9. Meditate. For some individuals, meditation helps calm the body and prepare for sleep. There is no right or wrong way to meditate. 

10. Ditch the caffeine early. What you eat and drink can impact sleep. Ditch caffeine at least EIGHT HOURS before bed. 

Sleep Health FAQ 

Can sleep deprivation cause sleep apnea? 

No. An obstruction in the airway causes sleep apnea. Sleep apnea causes sleep deprivation, but sleep deprivation does not cause sleep apnea. 

Does sleep deprivation worsen mild obstructive sleep apnea? 

It's possible. Sleep deprivation causes a variety of mental and physical health issues. Sleep deprivation could lead to worse sleep and perhaps exacerbate symptoms. However, it's important to understand that each sleep apnea case is unique. 

Can TMJ cause obstructive sleep apnea? 

Yes, the misalignment of the jaw could lead to a blocked airway and cause OSA. 

What is a TMJ sleep disorder clinic? 

The TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centre of St. Louis offers treatments and therapies that address the underlying cause of TMJ or sleep apnea. The TMJ and Sleep Therapy Centres are a nationwide network of clinics operated by practitioners like Dr. Frith, who are experienced in treating these conditions.


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