What do you do when tinnitus is keeping 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.
When it’s quiet at night, tinnitus seems an insurmountable foe. But there are some tinnitus-fighting techniques that help you tackle your tinnitus so you can rest.
Here are the 5 secrets to getting a good night’s sleep with tinnitus.
1. Realize that Resistance Is Futile
Swiss Psychiatrist Carl Jung of 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 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.
2. 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? How do they do that?
People with tinnitus often complain of tossing around for hours and feeling like they are held hostage by their tinnitus. Here’s the difference.
Some stress in life is good. It keeps us motivated. But too much can impact many areas of life and health.
Most people who are able to go to sleep quickly have learned techniques to turn off racing thoughts, worries about past mistakes or an unsure future. This doesn’t mean they never get stressed. It means they’ve taken control and can basically turn stress on and off as needed.
Whether they recognize it as “mindfulness” or not, this is what they’re 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 like:
- Reading a calming, inspirational book
- Listening to relaxing music, ambient sound or a meditation
- Breathing deeply and slowly
- 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. 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 gets less and less.
3. Track Your Diet
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 affects sleep quality and tinnitus. Pay attention to your symptoms and notice whether they are worse after certain foods or other substances. Keeping a food journal can help you track your diet.
4. Recognize When the Ringing 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’re not protecting your ears in a noisy workplace
- Your hobbies are loud enough to damage ears (for example you use snowmobiles, motorcycles, or go to concerts)
- You’re turning your headphones, earbuds or speakers too high
- You’re using drugs (prescription, over the counter or Illegal) that are damaging your hearing
- You’re suffering from anxiety or depression, which make tinnitus sound louder
- You have heart disease
Often addressing the underlying cause can eliminate or significantly reduce the annoyance level of the tinnitus keeping you up at night, allowing you to fall asleep faster.
5. Work with a Professional
A hearing professional can work with you to identify the cause of that ringing. They’ll likely recommend trying some of the techniques we’ve mentioned here. 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 tinnitus sound
- 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 ringing of the ears worse
If ringing is keeping you up at night, know that you have options. Gritting your teeth and bearing it likely isn’t your best choice. Get a formal diagnosis and talk to a hearing professional about treatment.