Research shows more than half of tinnitus sufferers have trouble sleeping. The first step to better sleep is to have a plan of action to help improve your sleep habits.
There are plenty of things that make tinnitus worse – and one of the biggest triggers is lack of sleep.
The problem is the vicious cycle of needing sleep to help your brain deal with tinnitus and not being able to fall asleep because of the ringing in your ears.
We’ve broken this down for you into 3 sections:
- 8 Steps To A Healthy Sleep Routine
- 7 Things To Avoid
- 5 Ideas To Try When You Can’t Sleep
If you’re struggling with sleep, here are the best natural solutions to deal with sleep troubles for tinnitus sufferers.
8 Steps To A Healthy Sleep Routine
Why do some tinnitus sufferers have trouble sleeping and others are perfectly fine?
For many people with tinnitus, anxiety can play a big part in how easily they are able to fall asleep.
It comes down to how that person is dealing with their anxiety about the process of sleep and how they feel about the ringing in their ears.
Studies show that even if you have the exact same kind and intensity of tinnitus as someone else, your sleep and other aspects of your life will be affected by how you’re dealing with the emotional stress of this condition.
If you think this might be the case for you, here are some easy ways to get your anxiety in check.
1. Create A Bedtime Routine
The first step to getting a good night’s sleep is a structured evening routine.
All creatures, humans and animals alike, thrive on knowing what’s coming next and are more at ease when there is some structure in their lives.
The thing is, at first, it’s structured and may feel forced.
But, eventually, your subconscious will take over and lead you through a peaceful routine every night without any effort.
Two important steps to start with are:
- Go to bed and get up at the same time every day – even on weekends. Your body wants to be on a predictable clock.
- Only use your bedroom for sleeping. No TV, no late-night email checking or writing reports for work in bed. You want to train your body to equate your bedroom with sleep only.
Studies show that those who exercised cut the time it takes them to fall asleep in half and got nearly an hour more of sleep each night.
Most people should exercise during the day, rather than too close to bedtime to make sure they don’t get too worked up with the natural hormones.
Even doing a simple, easy workout for a few minutes a day will help.
3. Set The Temperature Of Your Room
Your bedroom temperature can have a big impact on your sleep.
Make sure it’s not too hot but not too cold, either.
Most people sleep best in a slightly cool room that’s around 65o to 70 o F.
Your body wants the temperature to drop before sleeping.
If your room is too warm, you’ll have a hard time drifting off to a peaceful sleep.
If you’re having trouble drifting off to sleep, try lowering the temperature in your room about an hour before bed.
4. Dim The Lights
As humans, we are meant to sleep when it’s dark and be awake when it’s bright out.
Start to dim your lights an hour or two before you want to fall asleep.
Your brain and hormones will start to tell your body and mind that it’s time to relax.
Also, make sure you have a pitch-black room at night.
Here are a few ways to help you achieve that optimal pitch-black for sleeping:
- Get heavy “black-out” curtains for your windows
- Make sure your bedside alarm clock uses red light (not blue or white glowing numbers)
- Cover all light sources, even if they are small, with a bit of electrical tape
- Wear a sleep mask
Creating a sleep environment that naturally stimulates your brain to fall asleep will go a long way, even with tinnitus.
5. Avoid Screens Of All Kinds
You can dim the lights all you want, but if you’re watching any kind of bright screen before bed, your brain won’t be sending your body the hormones to fall asleep.
This goes for TV, your laptop, phone, tablet and even brightly-lit e-readers.
Avoid these kinds of screens for 1-2 hours before you would like to be asleep.
If you have to watch TV to help you unwind, see if there is a setting to the brightness that you can adjust at night.
There are also handy glasses that you can get to wear for the last hour or two before bed.
So, you’ve cooled down your room, dimmed the lights, installed heavy curtains and turned off the TV and put your phone down.
You still have a while to unwind before sleep.
Part of your bedtime routine should have a block of time for unwinding.
Not just watch TV and head to bed right after.
Here are a few ways you can incorporate time for self-care and unwinding:
- Take a hot bath or shower. Let your body relax in the heat and let your mind let go of everything it was carrying all day. If you don’t have time for a full bath or shower, soaking your feet in hot water can produce the same effects.
- Read a book. How often have you thought you’d like to read a book but don’t have the time? Creating this new habit will help your mind shift to not thinking about your daily problems and teach your brain that in the evening it is time to let go.
- Meditate or do some deep breathing. It’s as simple as breathing in and out slowly and steadily. This will calm down your heart, nervous system and those racing thoughts.
- Play soft music. Studies show that listening to soft music has a positive impact on a better sleep cycle – and that it can also boost your immune system.
Your body is the most reliable tool you have in determining when you are tired and you should listen to it.
Unwind for a bit, but when sleep calls, make it a habit to fall asleep when your body tells you to, rather than fighting it.
Practicing healthy ways to relax and de-stress plays a big role in dealing with tinnitus.
7. Distract Yourself With Another Sound
One of the most effective techniques when it comes to sleeping with tinnitus is to “replace” the sound with something else.
You do this by playing your chosen sound a bit quieter than your tinnitus.
This distracts your mind and helps you to switch off more easily.
What’s also great is that when you have that noise on while you sleep, if you wake up in the middle of the night tinnitus won’t be the first thing you notice.
Which means you’ll be able to fall back asleep more easily.
Here are the top choices of fellow tinnitus patients:
- Ambient, calm music
- Nature sounds, like waves or rainfall
- Small fans
- White noise apps on your tablet or phone
- Headphones designed for sleep
- Pillow speakers
One of the worst things for tinnitus is a too-quiet bedroom.
Keep trying out different noises and sounds until you find the one that helps you the best.
Research has proven that certain scents help the body to unwind and reduce stress and anxiety.
Some of the best scents to try are:
- Clary Sage
- Ylang Ylang
The best way to choose a scent is to smell a few and see which helps you start to relax as soon as you smell it.
Adding in a bit of pure scented oils to your bath or shower before bed will help lead you into a peaceful sleep.
You can also put a few drops of the oil on your pillow, or on your wrist, temples and neck glands.
Or add use a diffuser to spread the scent in your room as you unwind for the evening.
7 Things To Avoid
A bedtime routine is a great start to getting restful sleep.
If you’re still struggling with sleep, there are some well-researched hindrances to falling and staying asleep.
Sometimes making a small change will help you get the deep, restful sleep you are longing for.
1. Earplugs For Sleep
You’re “hearing” ringing in your ears, right?
So, it might make sense to block your ears to try to drown out the sound.
The problem is, most tinnitus is something going on with your brain and the nerves that are connected to your ears.
Putting in earplugs to help you sleep will just make that ringing or buzzing sound louder and more intense.
Instead, use some kind of noise-masking device like a fan or white-noise machine, like we talked about in the last section.
Another problem with earplugs is they can make you build up earwax which isn’t good for tinnitus.
They can also trap dirt and bacteria which can lead to painful ear infections.
But if you’re going to be exposed to loud noises and need to protect your ears to help with your tinnitus or hearing loss, by all means, use earplugs.
Just remember that it’s not a good idea to sleep with them.
Not only does caffeine interfere with a good sleep, research shows it can make your tinnitus worse.
Caffeine stays in your blood for 6-8 hours.
So, while a morning coffee will help get you going, having a second or third cup later in the day can be what’s ruining your sleep.
There are some great alternatives to coffee you can try.
By reducing your caffeine levels, you can feel confident that you will be able to fall asleep much more quickly.
3. Blue Light
A modern plague that is affecting how we sleep is “blue light.”
Blue light is a type of light that comes off electronic devices, whether that’s your TV, laptop, phone, tablet or even your e-book.
This blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s the middle of the day – even if it’s the only light on in the room.
It stops your natural melatonin hormone from kicking in.
Melatonin is what kicks off that sleepy feeling and gets your body to start to unwind for sleep.
There are a few things you can do to help your blue light problem:
- Stop watching TV and turn off any bright lights 2 hours before you’re planning on sleeping
- Program your phone to switch to a “night mode” which makes a yellow-hued light, rather than blue light
- Get an app to block blue light on your laptop or computer screen
- Wear special glasses that block blue light for those last few hours before bed
4. Dark Daytime Environment
Just light bright blue light in the evening makes your brain think that it’s still daytime, if you don’t have a bright enough daytime environment, your body will be really confused and think that it’s always evening.
Natural sunlight is the best light to get during the day.
Even if you work in a dark office or warehouse with no windows, getting more sunlight in the morning or during breaks can really help your body.
You can also get bight lightbulbs or try a light-therapy box to help your brain to realize that it’s daytime.
5. Long Naps
Short power naps are great.
But long naps during the day can really mess up your sleep.
When a nap is too long, you reset your internal clock.
This means going to bed that night will be a struggle.
And you might also feel sleepier after your nap!
If you really need a nap, try to keep it short so you will feel your best afterward.
Like caffeine, alcohol is bad news for tinnitus and for sleep habits.
It might seem like alcohol helps you fall asleep, but it ruins the quality of your sleep.
Here’s how alcohol is affecting your sleep:
- It causes more disrupted sleep
- You don’t get as deep a sleep as usual
- It interferes with producing melatonin, which you need to regulate sleep
A glass of wine with dinner probably won’t hurt your sleep.
But the more you drink, the more negative effects you’ll see.
7. Heavy Snacks Late At Night
Avoiding a big meal just before bed will help you avoid heartburn, indigestion as well as tossing and turning all night.
What happens when you have heavy foods just before bed is that it affects how your body releases the hormones you need to sleep.
Carb-rich, supper meals should be eaten at least 4 hours before you’re planning on going to bed for the night.
5 Ideas To Try When You Can’t Sleep
Even after creating an intentional bedtime routine and avoiding things that interfere with sleep, you might still struggle with falling or staying asleep.
Sleep studies have shown that the following tips help insomnia patients and those with severe sleep issues.
1. Get Out Of Bed
If you’ve gone through your whole relaxing bedtime routine, you cut out the blue light and tried aromatherapy, and you can’t fall asleep after 30 minutes, try getting up and out of bed.
Instead of tossing and turning, leave your bedroom for a little while, and eat a light snack, read a book or listen to some quiet music.
If you feel like you might need a bite to eat, here are some snacks that have been shown to help you feel sleepy:
- Milk or yogurt
- A small bowl of healthy cereal
- Half a banana
- A bit of turkey or a small turkey sandwich
As soon as you start to yawn or feel sleepy again, head straight back to bed.
2. Write Out Your Thoughts
Often what’s keeping you up is your mind racing.
Worries, stress, to-do’s for tomorrow, thinking about conversations you had or will have to have.
The mental juggling of all that information makes it hard to fall asleep.
Just like we talk about as a way to handle anxiety, journaling your thoughts and worries, or writing out a to-do list if that’s what’s keeping you up, is a proven way to ease your mind.
If you find that racing thoughts are what’s keeping you up at night, add a few minutes of writing to your evening unwind routine.
Writing about how the ringing and buzzing in your ears is making you feel is also a good way to sort out any emotions that are keeping your body in stress-mode.
3. Do Some Light Stretching Or Yoga
If you can’t sleep, you might need some ideas to help you relax.
Doing a few minutes of stretching or yoga can help ease some tension in your body.
There are lots of quick 5-minute YouTube videos you can look up.
Searching for “easy yoga for sleeping” or “simple stretches to relax” will help you find popular videos to try out.
4. Breathing For Relaxation
Using a breathing technique or doing a guided meditation designed to help sleep can be the perfect way to easily fall asleep.
There are lots of techniques you can try, but an easy and effective one is the 4-7-8 breathing technique.
It’s specifically designed to calm and relax you.
Here are the simple steps:
- Breath in for 4 seconds
- Hold your breath for 7 seconds
- Exhale for 8 seconds
An important step is to breathe from your belly, rather than your chest.
This will help lower your heart rate and blood pressure while calming your mind.
Repeat this as many times as you wish.
The 4-7-8 breathing technique is often used to help ease anxiety.
5. Natural Supplements & Sleep Aids
There are many herbs and vitamins that can help you relax enough to sleep.
The problem can even be a vitamin deficiency.
In fact, lacking vitamins can even cause or worsen tinnitus.
Here’s a list of vitamins and supplements you can try to see if it will help you sleep:
- Melatonin: Your body naturally produces melatonin to kick off falling to sleep. Sometimes, over time, your body can produce less and less on its own. Taking a supplement is one of the easiest ways to help you get to sleep and have a better quality of sleep overall.
- Valerian Root: Multiple studies have shown that valerian root can help you fall asleep and improve sleep quality.
- Magnesium: Playing an important role especially for your heart, brain and muscles. It’s involved in over 600 reactions in your body including metabolizing your energy. Research shows taking magnesium can help you unwind, calm your mood and give you a better sleep.
- L-theanine: An amino acid that you get from tea leaves, L-theanine has proven in several studies to be a very helpful sleep-aid. It can also help with beating colds, your brain performance, losing weight, relaxing and smoothing out mood swings.
- Ginkgo Biloba: Taking this herb in a tablet form helped research patients improve their sleep by getting a deeper, better sleep with less waking up at night.
- Lavender: Clinical trials show that taking a lavender supplement can help you sleep more soundly and for longer periods, wake up less tired and improve your overall mood.
If you decide to try a supplement, take just one at a time for a 2-week period to see how your body reacts to it. If you’re taking more than one type of supplement, you won’t know which one really works best for you.
Although tinnitus can interfere with your sleep, there are many ways you can tackle the problem.
Other ways you can help your tinnitus are to stay away from foods that make tinnitus worse, check if you’re on a medication that is affecting your tinnitus, cut down caffeine, sugar and salt, reduce your blood pressure and quit smoking.