Last week, I had a new client that came in with the problem of biting through her bite guard that her dentist gave her. She said she had been a grinder for years and was afraid she would damage her teeth. Her dentist referred her to me and said she had bitten through a couple of guards. I taught her how to relax the muscles in her jaw and the side of her head which will help alleviate the grinding, but then I spoke with her about how to relax her mind before she went to bed.
Most people that grind their teeth at night tend to be the same people that replay their day, or even their life, night after night. As they are thinking about, either what they should have done earlier or what they must do tomorrow, the muscles in their face and head will tighten causing them to clench their jaw. This is also bad for their TMJ joint. Many times they will suffer with headaches, especially on the side of their head. If this is you, what can you do about that?
Let’s begin with relaxing the muscles in your jaw and head. You can do this sitting up or lying down, it doesn’t matter. There is a muscle between your cheek bone and your jaw called a masseter. It is about 1.5-2 inches wide and it is a major player in chewing your food. If you hold your jaw tight or grind your teeth at night, you may find this muscle to feel sore doing this exercise. Use the thumb on the same side as the cheek you are working, in other words, use your right thumb to work your right cheek. Move your thumb from the ear to towards the lip. You will start about an inch in front of the ear. Hard pressure is not necessary and like I said, your cheek may be too tender to stand a lot of pressure. Gently push across the muscle horizontally starting at the cheek bone and going down to the jaw. Repeat this 3 times. Now using the same thumb, start at the cheek and with a long sweep, go down to the jaw. Do this 2 times.
The next step is to place your thumbs, or fingers on each side of your head and make little circles from the back of your head to your temple area. Don’t press real hard, but hard enough that it feels good. Remember how good it feels when your hair stylist is rubbing your head as they shampoo your hair? You can get that same feeling any time. Do this for as long as you want, you cannot overdo this.
Finally, we need to quiet your mind. Some may choose meditation, which is my favorite, other may choose to write in journals, or if you are worried about tomorrow’s to do list, write it out and set a plan. This will take it off your mental plate so you can relax better.
Meditation can feel very daunting for many people, but the reality is, once you understand that it is not as hard as most meditation teachers make it out to be. Many times people believe you need to meditate like a Tibetan monk. That is not necessary. Sitting quietly for 5-10 minutes and allowing your thoughts to roll through your mind without judgment, which is great way to relax. The idea that you can sit for 30 minutes with no thoughts is nearly impossible unless you are highly trained. Let the thoughts roll and then let them go.
Writing them down can do similar things for relaxation as well. Just get them off your mental plate. Once you can do this, you can sleep like a baby, wake up refreshed, and start the next day full of energy. The secret to great sleep is a quiet mind. It may take a while to fully get it, but keep trying you can get there.