Can Sleep Habits Cause TMJ Disorder?

If you’re like most people, you feel a lot better after getting a good night’s sleep. But for some people, staying up late and getting up early is just a way of life. Unfortunately, according to a new study from Seoul National University Boramae Medical Center in Seoul, South Korea, sleeping less than five hours (or more than nine hours) could be detrimental to your health.

The study, which was led by Professor Shim Hye-young, found that patients who slept less than five hours each night weren’t just at a high risk of being tired during the day - they also increased their risk of developing the painful joint condition temporomandibular joint disorder (or TMJ disorder for short).

The study followed the sleeping habits of 11,782 people who were separated into three groups based on their sleeping habits. Then, the research team compared the participants' risk of developing temporomandibular joint disorder. What they found was that among those who slept five hours or less, the risk for developing TMJ disorder increased by 30 percent over the other two groups.

Interestingly, the group that slept more than nine hours each night also had an elevated risk of developing temporomandibular joint disorder.

So, what do researchers think is behind these results? Shim Hye-young believes that the lack of or in some cases the excess of sleep may prevent the body from fighting inflammation, and actually increase the body’s risk of inflammation. Inflammation of the jaw joints is one way the body can develop TMJ disorder.

But that’s just one theory. Another theory could be that sleep deprivation may be causing fatigue and stress, which could cause tension throughout the body - including the jaw. It can also cause teeth grinding, or bruxism, another well-known symptom or cause of temporomandibular joint disorder.

Whatever the exact connection between TMJ disorder and lack of or too much sleep, one thing remains clear: Getting a good night's sleep benefits the entire body. If you find yourself struggling to sleep at night, speak to Dr. Lederman. There are many possible reasons behind a lack of sleep, ranging from the easily fixable "too much caffeine" to more serious problems like TMJ disorder and sleep apnea, both of which Dr. Lederman treats.

To schedule an appointment with Dr. Lederman, please call 516-882-1764.

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