Sleeping with tinnitus can be challenging. The ringing in your ears can make it hard to fall or even stay asleep. While ringing in the ear can be less noticeable during the day when you're engaged in some activity and distracted by other noises, tinnitus can get annoyingly louder in the quiet of your bedroom, preventing you from falling asleep. The bad thing about not getting adequate sleep at night is that it can worsen your tinnitus, making it even more challenging to fall asleep.
Not only can sleep deprivation affect your everyday life, but it can, over time, result in depression and fatigue. However, this doesn't mean you'll struggle with sleep for the rest of your life just because you have tinnitus.
How to Sleep With Tinnitus
While tinnitus can't be cured, there are several ways to make your symptoms less noticeable. Testing and diagnosis from treatment centers such as HearCanada is the first step, while the following strategies can help you sleep better.
1. Use Sound Masking Devices
Playing in the background can help drown out the noise and help you fall asleep. It can also create a wall of sound so you can stay asleep without worrying about waking up in complete silence. You can choose a sound masking device that can fit into your ear, a headphone, or a pillow speaker. Alternatively, you can also stream ambient sounds from a mobile app. Some masking sounds you can play in the background include nature sounds, ambient music, and white noise.
2. Add Relaxation to Your Sleep Routine
Relaxation techniques can reduce the stress that comes with tinnitus. A hot bath or some breathing exercises reduces stress from tinnitus. You can also read a book, meditate on a meditation pillow, write in a journal or spend time with a loved one or a furry friend. No matter the relaxation technique you choose, ensure you consistently practice it every time before going to bed.
3. Keep Your Room As Comfy As Possible
Sometimes it's not just the ringing in your ears that keeps you awake. Your room may also be too hot or too cold, preventing you from getting the much-needed shut-eye. Set your thermostat to an ideal temperature. The optimal room temperature for sleep is typically approximately 15 to 22 degrees Celsius. Choose the right bedding and pillows to keep you comfortable throughout the night.
4. Stay Away From Blue Light
Lighting can also affect your sleep quality. Blue light from smartphones, TV screens, and computer monitors resemble sunlight and trick your body into thinking it's not yet time to sleep. It's best to stay away from screens for at least two hours before you sleep.
Using your phone or watching the television while in bed can make it harder to sleep when you have tinnitus because blue light prevents your body from releasing melatonin that helps you fall asleep. Before bed, turn off your electronic devices or use a screen-dimming app to limit your exposure to blue light from your smart devices. Instead, consider reading an actual book before bed.
5. Stick to a Sleep Schedule
While this rule applies to everyone, not just tinnitus sufferers, staying consistent with your sleeping and waking times can help you sleep better and ease your anxieties. Sticking to a sleep schedule means going to bed and waking up in the morning at a specific time each day. In case your tinnitus makes you sleep later or wake up earlier than your scheduled time, don't fret. Your body might take some time to adapt to the new sleep schedule.
6. Limit Caffeine Intake
Consuming caffeine before going to bed has been shown to interfere with your sleep pattern and prevent restful sleep, whether or not you suffer from tinnitus. Caffeinated drinks found in cocoa, cola, coffee, green and black teas, and energy drinks affect how you wake up and sleep by inhibiting the production of adenosine in your body, which promotes sleep. Taking caffeine at night inhibits this process, making you stay alert and difficult to fall asleep.
Additionally, caffeine stimulates your body's nervous system, escalating your anxiety and stress levels, especially when you're already struggling with the annoying sounds of your tinnitus. Not only can this make it harder to unwind, but it can also reduce your sleep quality. Limit or entirely avoid caffeine intake at least several hours before unwinding to help you sleep faster and better.
7. Don't Toss and Turn
If you're trying to fall asleep or getting back to sleep after your tinnitus has woken you up in the middle of the night, don't continue tossing and turning in the bed expecting to fall asleep. Staying in bed tossing and turning won't always help you drift off. Instead of waiting in bed when you can't sleep, get up and prepare a light snack in the kitchen. Consuming a light snack can help make your body feel exhausted since your body uses a lot of body to digest food.
Alternatively, sit down and relax in a cozy chair, listen to soothing music or a meditation podcast to mask the ringing sounds and relax your mind, or read a book. After some time, you'll start to feel tired and sleepy, making it effortless to fall asleep again. If you still can't fall asleep, repeat the process.
8. Get Enough Exercise
Although exercising at bedtime can distract your sleep, staying physically active during the day and keeping fit will help improve your sleep quality and help you sleep better. Engaging in physical activity helps you better manage stress and improve your physical and mental health. Strive to get at least 30 minutes of light-intensity physical activity each day to help you sleep faster and enjoy better quality sleep.
9. Avoid Napping During the Day
Sometimes you may want to take naps during the day to compensate for the lack of sleep at night due to tinnitus. Taking longer naps during the day, however, can make you unable to fall asleep at night. Limit your day naps to no more than 20 to 30 minutes long to make it easier to sleep at night.
10. Darken Your Room
Going to bed in a room with ambient light from different sources can interfere with your ability to sleep and stay asleep at night, especially when you have tinnitus. So, darken your bedroom as much as possible to make it easier for you to drift off and remain asleep throughout the night. Put on a sleep mask, hang up darker curtains to block outside light, and switch off lights in your room.
11. Add Aromatherapy to Your Bedtime Routine
Essential oils have been used for decades for therapeutic benefits. Inhaling scents of certain essential oils like lavender can help reduce the anxiety and stress associated with tinnitus, helping you relax and unwind to sleep with ease. Other sleep-promoting scents that can help relieve tinnitus include vanilla and jasmine oils. Besides engaging your sense of smell, soaking in a bath with essential oils for at least an hour before bed can help you unwind to fall asleep.
12. Avoid Heavy Meals Before Bed
Eating a heavy meal right before bed can prevent you from having a good night's sleep. It's best not to eat a few hours before bed to allow your body enough time to digest the food, so it doesn't disrupt your sleep. To avoid sleeping hungry, eat a light meal with a few calories or a snack like a piece of fruit. Healthy eating habits like less salt intake and consuming foods with lots of minerals and vitamins may also alleviate your tinnitus and improve your sleep quality.
13. Limit Your Alcohol and Nicotine
Like caffeine, alcohol and nicotine can also trigger your tinnitus, preventing you from sleeping at night. Besides interrupting your sleep pattern, increased alcohol and nicotine intake before bed can inhibit your body from getting sufficient REM sleep. This is whereby your body gets deep restorative sleep, and not getting adequate REM sleep can make you wake up feeling tired and sleepy even after you've had eight hours of sleep.
Also, just like caffeine, nicotine is a stimulant that will often keep you awake. So, to enjoy a good night's sleep and wake up feeling fresh and rejuvenated, try reducing your nicotine and alcohol intake before bed each day.
If you usually struggle with sleep due to the annoying tinnitus sounds, trying out the above strategies can help make falling asleep at night easier and allow you to stay asleep longer. While there's no single solution to sleeping with tinnitus, trying different strategies can help you find the perfect combination that works for you. Improving your sleep quality when you have tinnitus takes time and patience; it can go a long way in boosting your mental health and managing life with tinnitus.
Most importantly, visit your audiologist to have your hearing tested and diagnosed to rule out what could be causing your tinnitus. This will help you get appropriate treatment and solutions to managing your tinnitus, so you can fall asleep faster and improve the quality of your sleep at night.