There’s nothing more frustrating than endless tossing and turning in bed as you desperately try to fall asleep.
For those that live with tinnitus, the medical terms for ringing in the ears, sleep can become even more of a major everyday problem.
The ringing noise alone makes it difficult to fall asleep, while the anxiety of the situation makes it hard to stay asleep once you finally drift off.
Sleep deprivation can make tinnitus worse, which subsequently makes it more of a challenge to fall asleep in the first place. Ultimately, it can quickly become a vicious cycle.
Struggling with tinnitus, however, doesn’t mean you have to suffer every night. With the right approach, you’ll be able to leave many of your problems behind and fall into deep, restful sleep much easier.
This guide will run you through some of the most effective strategies for falling asleep faster and for longer periods while dealing with tinnitus.
Sound Masking With White Noise
The most effective and easiest-to-implement strategy for tinnitus sufferers is sound masking with white noise. This is the use of background noise - ideally at a volume just under the sound of your tinnitus - to help you get to sleep.
While not everyone is able to fully mask the volume of their tinnitus, this background noise can still be helpful in creating a wall of sound that blocks out many of the other noises that would have otherwise awoken you.
In terms of choosing a sound to mask your tinnitus, anything you find relaxing can work well. Some of the most popular choices are nature sounds, slow-paced music, and desk fans.
Establishing a relaxing routine that you follow each evening before bed is a great way to deal with the stress and anxiety that can come from suffering with tinnitus.
The goal is to try and do anything that relaxes your over-agitated nervous system, whether these are physical relaxation techniques or mental strategies.
Some of the best examples of physical techniques are taking a hot bath or performing self-massage, whereas effective mental strategies include meditating, listening to music, or reading a book.
Whichever strategies you choose as part of your routine, it’s important to be consistent. If you can manage this, your brain will quickly learn to associate the routine with falling asleep.
Limit Caffeine Intake
Caffeine is a common tinnitus trigger for many sufferers, making it incredibly difficult to fall asleep, irrespective of whether you consume it in the afternoon or evening.
For those that suffer from severe tinnitus, it may be a good idea to completely cut out caffeine for a while due to its stimulant effect on the nervous system.
Your nervous system will already be in a state of over-agitation from the tinnitus, so caffeine will only intensify these stress and anxiety levels.
If cutting out caffeine entirely is too difficult, it’s at least advisable to limit your overall intake and avoid it in the eight hours before you go to sleep.
Be Sensible With Screen Time
At night, the human brain secretes melatonin, a hormone which signals that it’s night and time to get some sleep. However, the bright light emitted from screens such as phones, computers and TVs can cause the brain to stop secreting this important hormone.
As a result, staying up late to play on your phone, watch your favorite TV show, or browse the internet can all worsen sleep problems.
Ideally, it’s recommended that you turn off all of your backlit screen for at least 90 minutes before going to bed. This is the best way to ensure that you’re prepared for restful sleep.
It’s worth noting that many mobile devices now come with an app that can dim the screen and turn off most of the blue light spectrum.
Document Your Thoughts
One of the most common reasons people struggle to sleep is random thoughts before bed. Whether these thoughts are ideas, important information or just your imagination, they can make it increasingly difficult to fall asleep.
When it comes to coping with tinnitus, these intrusive and endless thoughts only make the problem worse.
However, an effective way of calming your mind and quieting these thoughts is to take a couple of minutes to write down all of your thoughts before getting into bed.
It’s also helpful to create a to-do list for the next day, as well as noting any intrusive thoughts related to the tinnitus. This can really help to reduce any stress you may have in your mind.
A pitch-black room can make it easier to fall asleep, as well as stay asleep for longer in the morning.
However, many bedrooms often have a lot of light coming in from different sources such as street lights, alarm clocks and poor curtain coverage. All of which can significantly disrupt the quality of your sleep.
One of the best and cheapest methods to make your bedroom as dark as possible is to buy a sleep mask. You can also try blackout curtains which are available in most home department stores.
Lower The Heat
A number of studies have shown that the optimal temperature for falling asleep is usually between 60 and 70 degrees fahrenheit (or 15-21 degrees celsius). This is notably colder than many people would think.
When the body is ready to rest, there’s an automatic drop in its core temperature to help initiate sleep. Be mindful that if the room temperature remains too high, it can provide a physiological challenge for your body to get into the ideal condition for sleep.
If you’ve been struggling to get sufficient sleep with tinnitus, you don’t necessarily need to drop your thermostat down to 60 degrees straight away. Instead, lowering the temperature by just a couple of degrees may do the trick.