Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, usually sounds like a high-pitched noise. Let’s talk about how to sleep better with tinnitus. I hear my patients describe buzzing, whooshing, or roaring. No matter what it sounds like, it can make peace and quiet seem impossible.
There are two things we know very well about tinnitus. First, is that worry, concern, or stress towards tinnitus can make it louder. Second, your tinnitus sounds louder in a quiet environment. Personally, I find that my tinnitus is louder when I am on a hike in a forest or a quiet room.
Around 10% of people with tinnitus report difficulty sleeping because of their tinnitus. People with tinnitus often state that falling asleep is one of their most significant daily challenges. Because of that, sleep deprivation is a common side effect of this condition. To make matters worse, when you’re sleep-deprived, the symptoms of tinnitus can intensify.
How to Sleep with Ringing Ears
Insomnia is a sleep disorder that is characterized by difficulty falling and/or staying asleep. People with insomnia have one or more of the following symptoms: Difficulty falling asleep, waking up often during the night, and having trouble going back to sleep.
A 2014 study found that ⅔ of tinnitus patients had an associated sleep disorder. These patients reported higher levels of anxiety and stress.
Here’s the good news. When these same patients completed tinnitus therapy, counseling and use of sound generators, their sleep disorders significantly improved.
5 Ways to Sleep with Ringing in Your Ears
Now, I will share 5 different techniques for how to enter sleep more easily. The first three are healthy sleep habits and the last two are sound therapy methods. If you really care about better sleep, try a few of these techniques.
1) Try to spend at least 20 to 30 minutes doing something that relaxes you before you try to fall asleep. This could be reading, lighting a candle, or playing music.
2) Limit screen time, specifically computer, phone, and TV. It is especially important to avoid exciting content like action movies and news. Also try to limit light in your bedroom (black out windows and cover other light sources).
3) Relaxation Techniques, including deep belly breaths, stretching, guided meditation, and Guided Sleep Audio, by the Honest Guys.
4) Use sound therapy to help enter sleep while lying in bed. A white noise machine, a fan, or recorded sound of the ocean. I’ve included a link to a good white noise machine below. Sound therapy can help in two ways. The noise can mask the ringing in your ears. The sound can calm and relax you.
5) The sound pillow. It is a product that I first learned about when I was working at the veteran’s hospital in San Francisco. Military veterans have a high prevalence of bothersome tinnitus. With the sound pillow, you plug in your cell phone to an aux cord that is inside a soft pillow. You hear calming noise through your pillow, without bothering your sleeping partner in the bed next to you. This product is not for everyone, but you may enjoy it. I included a link below.
Some of my patients tell me that they find themselves waking up in the middle of the night BECAUSE of their tinnitus. Let me know in the comments section below if that has ever happened to you? When you wake up in the middle of the night (for any reason), it is quiet and your tinnitus will sound loud. It may not be the noise in your head that wakes you up.
A lot of people use melatonin to help them fall asleep at night. This may be helpful during a limited time period, but I don’t recommend it long-term. Always consult your doctor before taking medication to help sleep.
Tips for How to Sleep Better with Tinnitus
Follow a few or all five of the healthy sleep habits for one month. Monitor your progress and stick with what worked best for you. Turn on a fan or get a bedside noise maker.