’Tis the season for eggnog, sugar cookies, and stressful family gatherings. The holidays can bring great joy, but they can also create worry and stress as you scramble to keep up with activities, gifts, and a diet of rich foods and cocktails.
Holiday stress can lead to bruxism, or nighttime teeth grinding, or can exacerbate the condition in people who already brux. While the causes of bruxism can be complex — things like an overbite, missing teeth, and sleep apnea can all be factors — two of the most common issues leading to teeth grinding are caffeinated and alcoholic beverages and anxiety.
Don’t let holiday stress create teeth grinding problems for you this season. Here are three ways you can limit the anxiety and have a more relaxed holiday.
Skip the booze
A beer or a glass of wine can feel like a nice way to take the edge off a stressful social situation or a busy day wrapping up the year at work. But alcohol often leads to more stress than it eliminates. Falling into routine drinking or binging on alcohol can exacerbate your overall stress level and create new problems.
Alcohol has also been shown to intensify grinding. After a long day of hitting the shops, visiting with friends, or attending holiday events, drinking can keep your body from being able to fully relax. It increases tension and prevents restful sleep, which can lead to more grinding.
Limit your alcohol consumption this holiday season to cut down on stress.
Take a deep breath
Focusing on your breathing can create physical relaxation in your body — and it can also promote a more relaxed state of mind. Deep breathing is a doubly effective way to counteract that holiday stress and prevent bruxism during the end-of-year rush.
The idea of structured meditation may feel intimidating to you, but it doesn’t need to be anything formal. If you have a hard time getting started, just think of making each cycle of breath into a square: breathe in deeply to a count of four, hold your breath for four beats, exhale fully to a count of four, and hold your empty breath for four beats.
Practicing deep breathing while you’re standing in line, in the middle of an uncomfortable social situation, or working on a big project can promote relaxation in body and mind.
Relax your jaw
People tend to a hold a lot of tension in their jaws. Especially if you’re already bruxing at night, leaving that tension unaddressed can promote more (and more intense) teeth grinding at night.
Practice letting your tongue relax away from the roof of your mouth and leaving a little bit of space between your back teeth. This helps prevent you from keeping your jaw clenched during the day, which can help you into the night.
If you’re experiencing extra tension or jaw pain this holiday season, you can also use a warm moist towel against the side of your jaw and cheek to help the muscles relax. This is a great way to promote relaxation in order to prevent teeth grinding, and also to heal any pain you feel from past bruxing.
Don’t let holiday stress create problems that could last well into the new year. Take care of yourself and take care of your teeth. Using a mouthguard at night can also help keep bruxism in check this holiday season and protect your teeth. Visit www.sleepright.com for more information.