THE SLEEP PAIN CONNECTION
We are always told to get a good night's rest but did you know that there's an intimate relationship between sleep and pain?
A crucial component to my evaluation and treatment of TMJ and orofacial pain is reviewing a patient's sleep history and hygiene. Do you feel rested when you wake up in the morning? Do you sleep throughout the night? Are you able to stay asleep? These questions are important, because the quality and quantity of sleep influence one's perception of pain.
Sleep deprivation is linked to lowered pain thresholds. If a person is in pain, he/she/they may have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep. Lowered pain thresholds may lead to allodynia, a condition characterized by pain resulting from an innocuous stimuli. A person with allodynia will perceive something as painful that would not normally be considered painful. In other words, people may perceive pain with normal eating, chewing or talking which are symptoms of TMD. Poor sleep may lead to facial, neck and shoulder muscle pain and jaw pain along with headaches.
Additionally, people with sleep disordered breathing disorders, such a sleep apnea, may experience daytime fatigue and irritability, because their disorders inhibit their ability to reach the deep and restorative stages of sleep. They often experience headaches and temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Nocturnal bruxism (teeth grinding and clenching) is associated with obstructive sleep apnea and sleep disordered breathing, and some individuals with sleep apnea also grind their teeth at night.
Part of my goal in treating patients is helping them achieve a more restful night of sleep.