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More Questions and Answers About Sleep:

I have asthma, which was well controlled until I gained 20 pounds. Since the weight gain, I find myself waking up at night with asthma attacks and frequently reaching for my inhaler. My asthma used to occur primarily when I would exercise, so why am I now having attacks while I’m sleeping?

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Ask the Experts: Questions and Answers About Sleep

I find myself waking up with pain in my jaw, neck and head. Recently my doctor sent me to a dentist who diagnosed me with TMJ disorder. I do not clench my teeth during the day, but I seem to while I sleep. Do I have a sleep problem that’s causing me to wake up with this troubling pain?


Yes, TMJ – more accurately known as TMD – is caused by clenching or grinding teeth. Frequently, this occurs at night while asleep. One of its causes, that has more recently been discovered, relates to breathing problems during sleep such as snoring and sleep apnea. Clenching and grinding teeth while asleep is now recognized as an attempt to bring the jaw and tongue forward. This is to prevent the back of the tongue from blocking the airway, which is what happens in patients with Obstructive Sleep Apnea. There are many people who have a tendency for the airway to partially block while asleep, making it more difficult to breath. Clenching the jaw is the brain’s way of preventing this from occurring. I suggest viewing my website and TV show for a more elaborate explanation of TMJ / TMD and sleep. I’ve recently presented research on this topic at a national sleep disorders conference. Also, dentists who treat this problem make dental splints that ease pain by keeping the jaw open and relieving pressure on the joints. This also protects tooth enamel. However, most of these appliances do not correct the breathing issues. I am working with Ronald Prehn, DDS, a facial pain and dental sleep specialist to further educate dentists on this topic. We hold an annual professional medical conference in Houston on this topic, more information is available at



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