It’s hard to concentrate when you have a ringing in your ears – and it’s even harder to shut off and fall asleep. Find out how you can cope with tinnitus that keeps you up at night.
Toss and turn? Pull your hair out? Grunt and groan as you punch the pillow? When tinnitus is moderate to severe, it invades every fiber of your being. And because it’s coming from the inside rather than an outside source, no earplugs or number of pillows piled on your head will get rid of it.
Tinnitus seems like an insurmountable foe during the nighttime when there’s very little noise to compete with the ringing in your ears. But there are some tinnitus-fighting techniques that help you tackle your tinnitus so you can finally get some well-deserved rest.
Here are the 6 secrets to getting a good night’s sleep with tinnitus.
- Realize that Resistance Is Futile
Carl Jung, a leading psychiatrist from the early 20th century, is famously quoted as saying “What you resist persists.” Today, most of the modern psychiatric community agree that Dr. Jung was on to something. This not only applies to emotions but also physical sensations like tinnitus and the ringing in your ears.
The more you focus on the tinnitus and the misery it causes you in an effort to overcome it, the worse it seems to get. But accepting that you have tinnitus, and acknowledging your feelings about it, will allow you to objectively begin developing a plan to stop nighttime tinnitus from ruining your sleep. The first step in healing is acceptance, so the sooner you can accept that you have tinnitus, the sooner you can start getting a good night’s sleep.
- Prepare Your Mind for Sleep
Did you ever notice how some people, maybe your significant other, lie down to sleep and seem to be out in 30 seconds flat? If you have tinnitus that gets worse when you try to fall asleep, it probably drives you nuts. And you probably wonder just how they can do that.
People with tinnitus often complain of tossing around for hours and feeling like they are held hostage by the ringing in the ears. Oftentimes, the difference between a person who falls asleep right away and someone who tosses and turns comes down to how well each person handles stress.
Some stress in life is good. It keeps us motivated. But too much can impact many areas of life and health. In this case, stress makes tinnitus symptoms worse. This is because tinnitus is impacted by the blood flow in your ears, and stress increases your blood pressure – which makes the ringing in your ears much louder and more noticeable.
Most people who are able to go to sleep quickly have learned techniques to turn off racing thoughts, worries about past mistakes, or unsure feelings about the future. This doesn’t mean they never get stressed. It just means they’ve taken control of their stress and can basically turn it on and off as needed.
Whether they recognize it as “mindfulness” or not, this is in essence what someone who manages their stress well is doing.
Bedtime mindfulness is a relaxation technique that may begin 30-45 minutes before you actually go to bed. You turn off the TV, computer or other device and focus on the present. There are many ways to do this, such as:
- Reading a calming, inspirational book
- Listening to relaxing music or ambient sounds, like rainforest or ocean noises
- Breathing deeply and slowly
- Meditate for a period of time before you sleep using mindfulness techniques
- Focusing on what you smell, see, or feel in the room to stay focused on the present
- Relaxing your body parts one by one
- Thinking about what you’re grateful for
Some people find it difficult to do these kinds of activities for long periods, especially if you’re the kind of person who is always on the go. You must be patient with yourself and know that it gets easier. As you continue to prepare yourself for sleep night after night, you’ll notice that nighttime tinnitus becomes less and less intrusive and that you’ll start falling asleep faster.
- Call in the Reinforcements
There’s no shame in admitting that you might need some help falling asleep when you’re dealing with tinnitus. The reason why tinnitus is so prevalent during the nighttime is because if you’re like most people. there aren’t any other sounds competing for your attention. Your bedroom is silent, which makes for a perfect environment for tinnitus to take hold.
Instead of suffering in silence, you can look to some technological sleep aids to help you get through the night. White noise machines are your frontline defense against the ringing in your ears that prevents you from falling asleep. They produce an audible, yet unobtrusive noise that helps mask your tinnitus symptoms. Even a small fan that you keep on your nightstand could produce the right level of noise to help you drift off to sleep.
If you’re a real technophile, you could even go a step further and invest in a pair of sleep headphones. These headphones have a long battery life and are designed to counteract the symptoms of tinnitus. You can also use them during the daytime since most of these headphones are Bluetooth compatible.
- Track Your Diet to Reduce Your Tinnitus
The food you eat can make a big difference between a good night’s sleep and a sleepless night. Some people find that artificial sweeteners or alcohol can cause tinnitus to be worse at night. Eating or drinking things that contain caffeine such as coffee, tea, chocolate, or soda after 1 PM can affect your sleep quality and make your tinnitus worse. Like we mentioned before, tinnitus is impacted by your blood pressure, and foods that have a high caffeine content make your blood pressure spike. Additionally, a diet that’s low in iron, like a vegetarian or vegan diet, can make your tinnitus worse.
Pay attention to your symptoms and notice whether they are worse after you eat certain foods or other substances. Keeping a food journal can help you track your diet and notice patterns. Once you get a handle on your food habits, you can then make some changes to your diet to reduce the ringing in your ears while you sleep.
- Recognize When the Ringing in Your Ears Is Trying to Tell You Something
Experiencing ringing at night can be a sign of several things. In many cases, addressing the root cause can quiet or silence tinnitus. It may be a sign that:
- You don’t protect your ears in a noisy workplace
- Your hobbies are loud enough to damage ears (for example, you ride motorcycles or attend concerts)
- The volume on your headphones, earbuds or speakers is too high
- You use drugs (prescription, over the counter, or illegal) that are damaging your hearing
- You suffer from anxiety or depression, which make tinnitus sound louder
- You have heart disease
Addressing the underlying cause often eliminates or significantly reduces the annoyance level of the tinnitus keeping you up at night, allowing you to fall asleep faster.
- Work with a Professional to Help Fall Asleep
A hearing professional can work with you to identify the cause of the ringing in your ears. They’ll likely recommend trying some of the techniques we’ve mentioned here to help you get deal with the problem. A professional can also identify the severity of the tinnitus and whether it was caused by a past event, like shooting off fireworks without ear protection, or if something you’re doing now is making it worse.
Additionally, they can help you reduce the negative effects of tinnitus. Solutions might include:
- Special hearing aids that cancel out the ringing in your ears
- Sound therapy which trains your brain not to hear the ringing
- Cognitive behavioral therapy, which is administered by a mental health professional to help you overcome negative thought patterns or habits that can make tinnitus worse
If ringing is keeping you up at night, know that you have options. Gritting your teeth and bearing it is not your best choice. Get a formal diagnosis and talk to a hearing professional about treatment.