Person clutches face in pain after teeth grinding

That Darn Teeth Grinding: Restless Nights With Migraine

My partner, G, woke me up in the middle of the night again recently to tell me to relax. “You’re doing it again.” As I registered the words he was saying, I noticed the sharp pain ruminating in my mouth and the pain behind my eyes.

A horror movie scene in my sleep

It would seem that for the third night in a row, I was sleeping with my jaw clenched and my teeth grinding, legs raised, and arm sprawled over my head. A scene I am sure many in the community are familiar with, or perhaps, horror movie fans. Ha. These involuntary, physical manifestations of sleeping with migraine can make for many-a-sleepless night.

A restless night with intense jaw pain

What’s worse, waking up after a restless night with intense jaw pain and mouth fatigue can lead to a slow, groggy morning. And to top it off, coffee tends to trigger a migraine for me, so a morning pick up is typically off the horizon. Oy. I am sure my household can attest that I often teeter between looking like a zombie and acting like a vampire: in true migraine aesthetic.

Trying to remain calm while awake

For me, this is a pretty common experience at night. When I am awake, I make a conscious effort to make sure I am relaxing my face, neck, and shoulders, because I find myself throughout the day feeling intense tension in those areas from the pain of migraine. Often, it feels like the pain runs from the top of my head, through my face, in my eyes, and through my teeth.

Teeth clenching at night with migraine

The teeth clenching is definitely one of the worst feelings. Sometimes I will realize I’ve gone for hours holding that pain in my mouth, and when I think about releasing it a wave of relief comes over me. It’s not so easy when I am sleeping, however. I am thankful my partner is attentive and sometimes sees and reminds me to put my legs down and release my jaws. This experience of constant clenching definitely adds to the pain of already splitting head throbbing and fatigue. The strange part is that I have slept like this for as long as I can remember, even as a kid dealing with head pain. I am not sure why this behavior follows my migraines, but it sure is uncomfortable.

Looking for something other than a mouthguard to help

One of the ways I have tried in the past to avoid this pain is by using a mouthguard, which didn’t really work out for me. I fitted the guard to my teeth but I found that it felt very uncomfortable and, with my comorbid asthma, it felt restrictive. Another solution I’ve tried is placing a cold, wet, soft cloth in between my teeth, but again, that didn’t feel safe to sleep with. I’ve yet to find something that truly helps with this, and it seems as though relief from stress and migraine are the only things that help - and well, that’s rare and difficult to come by.

Stretching before bed to release neck and back tension

Another practice I have implemented before bed is stretching and hot tea (when I can remember to do it and feel up to it). This practice helps me get into a headspace of letting the day go away and trying to relax, so that both my body and mind can prepare to loosen up. I’ve found joy in doing these practices and I do notice a difference in my ability to feel comfortable in bed afterward. However, it is a constant learning journey for me on ‘how to relax’ and some nights, even when I do these practices, I find my jaw clenching tight and my teeth grinding as I am experiencing migraine.

Pain that seeps into every area of my life

One of the more frustrating parts about migraine is that it can impact so many areas of life. Migraine for me means throbbing head pain, nausea, fatigue, emotional stress, sadness, and irritability, but it also means difficulty eating because my teeth hurt from grinding and clenching. It also means intense neck and back pain from the tension of responding to the pain in my nerves. It is a full-body experience and I am constantly trying to figure out ways to address the many areas of pain associated with it. Sometimes I feel like I am playing that old children’s game 'operation,' trying to whack away at constant new pain popping up. Sometimes it also feels like a feedback loop: I have a migraine, I grind my teeth, I grind my teeth, I have a migraine. It’s enough to make me dizzy.

Not giving up on migraine and tooth pain relief

Even though I have yet to find a way to relieve the tooth pain associated with migraine, I haven’t given up. I am trying to increase the number of nights I stretch and unwind, and trying to be more conscious of the tension built up inside of my body when I am awake. Hopefully, those habits built up can carry over into sleep, and I can get a good night’s rest one of these days.

Do you experience teeth grinding or clenching with migraine? Have you found any way to soothe the pain? Let’s discuss in the comments!

By providing your email address, you are agreeing to our privacy policy. We never sell or share your email address.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Join the conversation

or create an account to comment.