Advice Column, Child, Health, Toddler

Children’s Nightmares and Snoring Can Lead to Headaches

  • The Headache Clinic
  • Category Advice Column, Child, Health, Toddler

You may want to pay closer attention the next time your child wakes you up after he or she has experienced a nightmare. New research shows children can grind their teeth during a nightmare, or if they snore, and this can lead to them developing headaches.

A study published in the Journal of Craniomandibular Practice, aimed to investigate the routine, sleep history and orofacial disorders associated with children aged 3-7 years with nocturnal bruxism (grinding their teeth at night).

Data about the child’s routine during the day, during sleep and awakening, headache frequency, temporomandibular joint (TMJ) and hearing impairments was obtained through interviews with the parents and caregivers. An electromyography examination was used to assess the activity of facial muscles. Multiple logistic regression (MLR), chi-square test and t-test analyses were also performed.

The results showed an association of nightmares and snoring with bruxism, says Dr Elliot Shevel, South Africa’s pioneer in the field of migraine surgery and the medical director of The Headache Clinic.

According to Shevel, it is well documented that bruxism can lead to headaches. The causes of bruxism are largely unknown, but risk factors are anxiety, stress, caffeine, sleep apnoea, snoring and fatigue.

“At The Headache Clinic we have found that muscle tension in the jaws, face head and neck are some of the major underlying causes of migraine. This knowledge has resulted in our unique muscle treatment methods that restore and maintain the correct, relaxed posture of the jaws, head and neck. Clenching the jaws and grinding the teeth at night is common in many of our patients, not only children, and the headaches that result are treatable – without the use of medication.”


“This study now confirms that nightmares and snoring may also lead to children grinding their teeth. Variables related to awakening revealed an association with bruxism. Parents of the main group (children with nocturnal bruxism) reported more complaints of orofacial pain, facial appearance and headache occurrence amongst their children. Auditory and muscle disorders however, were not significant variables,” explains Shevel.

Dr Shevel advises that parents should consider treating the muscle tension to prevent migraine pain and teeth grinding, while addressing the underlying fear and insecurities causing their child’s nightmares.

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