This post has been a long time coming. A series of events last month caused me to stop collecting nightly data, and even to stop wearing the SleepGuard for a few weeks. What happened? I was starting to experience a creeping pain in the back of my head that would increase throughout each day. Tension headaches are nothing new to me, but this was different, because all my headaches usually occur behind my forehead. This new feeling was enough to give me pause. I read somewhere that back-of-head pain can be caused by “overuse of hats and hair accessories,” and decided to just stop wearing the SleepGuard for a little while.
During that time, the (minor-yet-distracting) pain was occurring daily, just at the tendon where the upper neck meets the head. I decided to see a physical therapist to see if I could get some relief, and ideas for how to deal with this. I told the physical therapist all about the SleepGuard. She had never heard of it, but was impressed that such a device existed, since she treats many TMJ patients. She thought it was possible that I had been sleeping with the band too tight. Another theory I floated was that perhaps all that jaw tension (that I was alleviating) had to go somewhere else, and it traveled into the back of my head. She said it was certainly possible. In all, I saw the physical therapist three times. She performed massage, soothing ultrasound, and gave me several neck and back stretches to do.
During this span of about 3 weeks, I either wore my old bite guard or nothing at all, and the familiar dreams of tediously pulling out gum from my teeth, or endlessly chewing food had returned. I think this is reasonable evidence that my clenching was still occurring.
It took another week for the pain to go away entirely, which it did rather suddenly one morning, to my utmost relief! But now the question was how to start wearing the SleepGuard again. If I didn’t wear it tight enough, would it loudly complain until I went slowly mad? At this point, in a fit of craftiness, I decided to actually cut the elastic band, (I guess I’m really buying the thing now!) and make my own closure out of a paisley silk scarf. It’s not pretty, but I was able to fashion a new band for the SleepGuard by tying some strategic knots around the old elastic, and adding a few safety pins. My goal was to more evenly distribute the pressure around the back of my head.
This turned out to work somewhat, but it was certainly not a reliable connection. That’s when I started applying more Tensive gel to the sensors, and tricking this thing out in one more key way: Flipping the sensors 180 degrees so the ends now point inward.
That last change turned out to be very interesting. For months, I had been annoyed at how the SleepGuard seemed designed for a person with a broader, more hairless forehead than mine. By flipping the sensors, I was able to get a better connection than before. I had to increase the sensitivity from 3 to 2, and the volume from 4 to 5, in order to calibrate it. For about 3 weeks, I’ve been sleeping this way, and keeping my readings pretty low. (Under 20 grinding events) The headaches have not returned.
Every once in a while around o-dark-thirty, the thing just beeps for no reason, so I’m starting to think it’s time to change out the sensors for the new ones that Lee sent in the mail as part of the rental agreement.
In summary, I have had some frustrations with its design, and I am still unconvinced that it’s changing anything in my lizard brain. However, I do feel comfortable saying that even with the difficulty I’ve had in achieving a reliable connection to my forehead, the SleepGuard has shown me what it feels like to wake up with a relaxed jaw for the first time. It feels good!