It’s been a long day, and you’re ready for a good night’s rest. You’ve put your pajamas on, said goodnight to the kids and brushed your teeth. You’re ready. This is it. Time to get some sleep.
The problem is, once your head hits the pillow, you’re hit with a deafening ringing in your ears that just won’t go away. You try earplugs and covering your head with another pillow, but none of it works and you end up turning on the TV or scrolling through your phone. That good night’s sleep you were dreaming of slips away before your eyes as your clock ticks on towards morning.
What you’re experiencing is tinnitus, and whether you hear it as a ringing, humming or buzzing in your ears, it makes it almost impossible for you to get to sleep. Tinnitus affects around 30 million people in the U.S. to varying degrees, while about half of all those afflicted report that the condition specifically affects their sleep.
Luckily though, there are ways to treat tinnitus and ensure you can get a good night’s sleep, waking up relaxed and refreshed. These range from healthy nighttime routines to self-care methods, to special devices and treatments aimed at reducing the symptoms.
Fight fire with fire…or noise with noise
It might seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to combat tinnitus is by introducing more noise into your bedroom at night. Tinnitus is most acute against a silent backdrop, as there are no other sounds competing for your attention. Eventually, the ringing will seem so loud that you can’t focus on anything else, especially sleep. However, if you use a white noise machine or play soothing music at a low volume, you stand a good chance of shifting your concentration away from the ringing in your ears to more sleep-friendly sounds.
Avoid the dreaded blue light
TVs, cell phones, and computers all have one thing in common that exacerbates tinnitus-caused sleep loss: blue light that confuses your circadian rhythms. This blue light, especially when viewed before bed, causes over-stimulation and keeps you awake even though you know it’s time for bed. Who needs that when you’re already struggling to fall asleep? This is why you should avoid interacting with any blue light emitters for at least one hour before bedtime. Instead of watching TV or browsing Facebook on your phone or computer, turn on a lamp that’s not too bright and read a nice, dense book. (Our personal recommendation is the Physician’s Desk Reference, which is guaranteed to have you counting sheep within 5 minutes.)
Be mindful of your surroundings
One of the most common self-care methods for treating tinnitus is mindfulness meditation. The goal of mindfulness is to pay close attention to the present without feeling overwhelmed or stressed out by your surroundings. Research has shown that mindfulness meditation correlates to better pain management, and when a study was performed on tinnitus patients, the results stated that 80% of participants reported significant improvement in their tinnitus symptoms.
If all else fails, seek out professional help
Seeking out professional help for tinnitus should not be the last resort; in fact, a hearing specialist may be able to successfully diagnose and treat a serious hearing condition early on, saving you from countless sleepless nights. These specialists can recommend hearing aids, cochlear implants, and acoustic neural stimulation, which are just some of the technologies available that may help you reduce the effects of tinnitus. Alternatively, a mental health professional can give you coping skills that are tailored specifically for your needs. Cognitive behavioral therapy, otherwise known as CBT, doesn’t make tinnitus go away, but it can change how you perceive the noise and control your reaction to it.