I would have a migraine that would trigger every time I would sleep. Whether it was a 20 minute nap or after a night’s sleep. For years I never understood why until I didn’t meet my dentist with jaw issues. Here’s how and why a mouth guard, also known as a bite guard changed my life.
Just in case you wish to watch a video version of this blog post then you can right here on my YouTube channel, if not, then scroll on for the blog:
As always I like to start with understanding the basics, because we often have misconceptions about the most common things around, and one of those things are migraines.
What is a Migraine?
A crude way to explain it as that it’s a bad headache, but actually it’s so much more than just a bad headache.
Yes the headaches are intense, but to describe it properly, it’s a neurological condition which can cause nausea, dizziness, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound.
How Many Types of Migraines are there?
There are two types of migraines – one which is migraine with aura and the other is migraine without aura.
Migraines with Aura:
This happens to 25% of those who suffer from migraines.
‘Migraines with aura’ is when you see visual symptoms like various shapes and lines – some sufferers even develop tingling sensations in their legs and arms which can show up a short while before the head pain begins.
There are other types of migraines too that may or may not have the aura:
- Migraine without head pain
- Hemiplegic Migraine
- Retinal Migraine
- Chronic Migraine
- Ice Pick Headaches
- Cluster Headaches
- Cervicogenic Headaches
- Menstrual Migraines
- Vestibular Migraines
What Does a Migraine Feel Like?
I think in this context of migraines and mouth guards, it’s best I explain what my migraine feels like.
Very rarely is my migraine all over my head. I get it on one side of my head, at the temple area. A nerve just expands, swells up and throbs and pounds, making my eye hurt.
Movement creates problems too especially if I’m to bend down, the pressure on the head increases which then increases the migraine 10-fold until I don’t keep my head still.
So I thought my triggers were limited to harsh sunlight, a large gap in meals (which I don’t do anymore), strobe lights, sudden sounds, long days, too much travel, having coffee, gluten, chocolate, strong scents.. yes they all were my migraine triggers, but none of them were my trigger for inviting a headache in my sleep, so what was?!
What Triggered a Migraine in My Sleep?
Despite being triggered by all the things I’ve mentioned above, I could never understand why I would wake up with with a headache.
Whether it was a nap, or a night’s sleep, I would always wake up with a headache at least 20 days a month.
Having a migraine can cause a real mental strain because it makes it so tough to work – you can’t stare at a computer screen because one eye can’t open properly, you can’t move your head because it increases the sensation.
Perfumes, or different artificial scents make it worse.
Despite the nausea, eating would always make me feel better but it wouldn’t last long.
I’d apply balms too.
But what helped me the most was taking a piece of ginger, scraping the skin off of it and boiling it in water. I’d sip on the water and over the next few hours, the migraine would subside – until I didn’t sleep again.
So whenever I’ve had non-sleep related migraines, homemade ginger water would be my best friend, but yet, I had no cure for a sleep migraine.
Having hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome – a connective tissue disorder that also affects my TMJ area (jaw joint), I went to my dentist for some advice and for a regular check up.
After observing my teeth and seeing some wear and tear, she asked whether I would grind my teeth or clench them very tight.
I gave it a lot of thought and said that I do. I realised that at many times when I’m in pain, I do that – and, umm… I’m always in pain, so it’s bound to happen often.
Plus, I don’t sleep too well because of the pain from endometriosis and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome so I can imagine me clenching and grinding my teeth from pain during my sleep – also known as Nocturnal Bruxism.
This is when the dentist suggested I use a bite guard (also known as a mouth guard).
Read Here For:
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What is a Mouth Guard / Bite Guard? How Do You Get One?
A mouth / bite guard is made of medical grade acrylic with varying softness. My bite guard is the softest possible since I also have a jaw issue (TMD = Temporomandibular Disorder) and with the teeth having to press on a hard acrylic mouth guard would only make matters worse for the jaw.
Here’s the taping I get done to help my jaw issues:
View this post on Instagram
Now to carry on with my mouth guard story…
To get a customised mouth guard, the dentist takes a takes an impression of the upper and lower teeth through a cast taking process which is then sent to an expert to create an acrylic form of the teeth.
The mouth guard received is transparent, so that it isn’t too obvious to anyone looking at you, but when you speak, there will be a change in how you sound.
Speaking with a mouth guard requires more effort and can be a bit tiring.
Initially, I struggled to speak without having a lisp, but I soon got used to it and better at it – yet, you can still tell that I have a mouth guard on whenever I do wear it.
Luckily, my issues are only prominent while sleeping, so I don’t need to wear it on occasions where I have to speak a lot.
Also, when I first started wearing the mouth guard, I found it very claustrophobic and struggled to give the guard extra space in my mouth – I struggled to breathe too. But over the course of a few weeks, it all felt very natural.
In 2018, this cost me INR 5000, which is approximately US$ 66 and was told it’ll last five years.
But, How Does a Mouth Guard Help?
When you wear a mouth guard, it creates a gap between your upper and lower teeth not allowing them to be in contact and reducing the hard grind between your teeth.
This then reduces the pressure placed on the bones, muscles and ligaments of the jaw area.
18 Months of Using a Mouth / Bite Guard for Migraines
It’s been over 18 months since I’ve been using my mouth guard.
After getting used to the bite guard, it was within the first 15 days I noticed a change in my migraines.
95% of the time, I was waking up with absolutely NO PAIN! Wooohoo!!
This was absolutely huge for me – what a massive success!
I was a new person – I wasn’t scared to sleep any more and my head, jaw, eye all felt so much lighter.
The mouth guard hasn’t change the other causes for my migraines which probably count for 10% of my overall migraines, but it has dramatically improved my sleep induced migraines, which I am so thankful for.
I’m so thankful to my dentist who saved me from this pain.
If interested, here’s…
Additional Information on Bruxism & Mouth / Bite Guard:
How To Clean a Mouth Guard?
It’s always best to rinse the mouth guard before and after use, but to maintain the right practices of oral hygiene, a good clean with your tooth-paste and tooth brush before every use has worked best for me.
It prevents the buildup of plaque inside the bite guard and keeps the bite guard fresh too.
What is Bruxism?
Simply explained, bruxism is when you grind, clench, gnash your teeth. You either do this in the day time (awake bruxism) or at night (nocturnal bruxism) – some may do it day and night.
Bruxism can happen because of stress, anxiety, anger, certain medications, parkinson’s disease, GERD – acid reflux, ADHD, epilepsy, sleep apnea to name a few reasons.
For me, pain while sleeping led me to clench and grind my teeth plus, as mentioned before, I have hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, which makes my joints more flexible and could also be the cause for the easy and extra moving of the jaw area.
So that was my story – actually, my life changing story.
Have you ever received a simple solution to a troubling issue?
I’d love to know what your story is.
Please do share in the comments section below.
Disclaimer: I am not a medical professional. I am a patient and have created this platform to share my experiences. This is all purely informative and in no way am I providing medical advice. Please consult a medical professional.