Sleep & Tinnitus: An Overview
Getting a good night’s sleep can sometimes be difficult for people with tinnitus. The following information is pulled from Dhyan Cassie, Au.D.’s two-part article on “Getting a Good Night’s Sleep” to help provide tips and helpful information on how to get better rest.
Tips to Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
Set a schedule:
Try to get up at the same time every day, even if you have slept poorly, and start your day off with some exercise – do this regularly and early in the day, as you want to avoid aerobic exercise close to bedtime. Don’t nap, but if you are accustomed to naps, try not to sleep longer than 30 minutes and nap early in the day. Work toward a regular bedtime, but don’t go to bed until you are sleepy. Create a pre-bedtime routine where you make the hour or so before bedtime as calm and relaxing as possible (Ex: take a hot bath, read).
Separate your sleeping environment:
Keep your work, study and other non-sleep activities in another room. Jot down all your concerns, worries, plans and “to-do” lists in a different room before going to bed and hold disagreements and difficult conversations elsewhere.
Adjust your settings:
Make your bedroom dark (heavy drapes and eyeshades can be helpful), comfortable (for chronic pain, try pillows, wedges or a softer/harder mattress to support better sleeping posture), cool and quiet as possible. Avoid distractions – turn your alarm clock away from your bed.
The soothing sound of rain or a waterfall from a tabletop-size sound machine will provide external input for your auditory pathway and help distract your brain from the tinnitus. Other sounds that people have reported as soothing: fans, dehumidifier, radio static, aquariums or other white noise from a sound machine. Visit ATA.org/sound for examples of soothing sounds and see what works best for you.
Don’t go to bed either very hungry or very full. A snack of complex carbohydrates (fruit, vegetables and whole grains) plus foods that contain the amino acid tryptophan (dairy, soy and nuts) can help you sleep. Examples: apple pie + ice cream; whole grain cereal + milk; oatmeal cookies + a glass of milk.
Alcohol, caffeine and nicotine:
Don’t use alcohol as a sleep aid. After it clears your system, the second half of the night is likely to be restless. Avoid caffeine in the afternoon or evening (try avoiding it entirely for two weeks and see if it makes a difference in your tinnitus and in your sleep), and avoid smoking, particularly in the hours close to retiring, as nicotine is a stimulant.
Learn to relax:
If you find that you are having trouble falling asleep after about 15 minutes, try practicing one of these relaxation techniques: progressive muscle relaxation (systematically tensing and relaxing groups of muscles), deep breathing through the diaphragm, visual imagery relaxation (focusing on a pleasant image). Also, learn an approach to physical and mental relaxation such as yoga, meditation or self-hypnosis that works for you and practice it during the day, not just at bedtime.
Talk to your doctor:
If your sleep problem persists, there may be an underlying cause that can be successfully treated so be sure to discuss your sleep problem with your physician who can investigate possible causes such as pain, sleep apnea, leg movements or the effects of medication.
- To see what other patients have reported about sleep and tinnitus, check out the Tinnitus Data Archive, Tinnitusarchive.org, for statistical summaries of tinnitus patients.
- In addition, PubMed, Pubmed.org, is a great public resource for easily searching a library of medical studies. Search the site using relevant keywords such as “sleep and tinnitus.”
- Tinnitus Today – March 2003 & June 2006– “Getting a Good Night’s Sleep” Parts I & II