Sleeping With Tinnitus

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Sleeping at night can be a difficult time for tinnitus sufferers. Sleep is very important for processing the days ups and downs and preparing you for the day ahead. Having a good night's sleep is also very important for managing stress. Because stress can trigger tinnitus and make it seem worse it is important to get a good night's sleep.

How tinnitus can affect sleep

One of the most common difficulties in relation to the early onset of tinnitus is sleep. You might have difficulty falling or staying asleep at night. Tinnitus is unlikely to wake you up in the night however it can mean you have difficulties getting back to sleep. Tinnitus is also blamed for poor sleep quality meaning you may not feel refreshed in the morning.

One of the difficulties relating to sleep and tinnitus is that you can feel trapped in a vicious circle. Struggling with tinnitus means you cannot get to sleep and lack of sleep makes tinnitus worse.

Tinnitus can cause and can be caused by mental health difficulties. These might include depression, anxiety and irritability. Waking up in the night or struggling to get to sleep can result in what we might call middle of the night thinking or catastrophising.

Why Is My Tinnitus Worse At Night Time?

The reason tinnitus might seem worse at night is because of little or no auditory stimulation from external sound sources. When we close our eyes to sleep our hearing mechanism becomes more acute to listen out for danger. This is a self protection mechanism to keep us safe.

You might also have nothing else to focus on rather than the sound of your tinnitus. Distractions are less at night due to minimal sensory input. In an experiment which involved participants being placed in a sound proofed room almost all reported some form of noise from the internal workings of their ears. Participants were selected based on a healthy hearing function and no tinnitus symptoms. When we listen out for tinnitus and seek it out try and find it we inevitably do find it.


Practical Steps to Help you Sleep with Tinnitus

If you are suffering from tinnitus it is important to control the controllable. This means looking after yourself in the best way possible by getting the basics right. Living with tinnitus might make us re-focus on our sleeping habits in a different way. Something we may have taken for granted might become more difficult. The following outlines some practical steps to help you sleep with tinnitus.

Sleep Routine

Having a sleep routine means putting the breaks on earlier than when we actually get into bed. When we are young we can just hop into bed and get our zzz's with very little difficulty. As we get older our sleep becomes lighter and more fragmented. Sleeping without a sleep routine is like taking the brakes off an aeroplane just before it enters the hanger. When you think about sleep consider how far away from an airport a plane starts to slow down and apply the brakes.

A sleep routine might be a series of relaxing things you like to do that are non adrenal. These might include, turning off all electrical products like a mobile phone or iPads, carrying out a spiritual based practice like meditation, tai-chi or yoga, taking a relaxing bath or shower, reading a relaxing book, dimming the lights and noticing how you feel whilst concentrating on your breathing.

Sleep Hygiene

Good sleep hygiene is as important as the bed you are sleeping on. Good sleep hygiene includes going to bed and getting up at the same time each day including weekends. When you do this your body knows what it is supposed to do and when it is supposed to do it. It keeps our circadian rhythms functioning properly. It also means using your bedroom for sleeping and sex rather than entertainment. This means making sure that it is a technology free zone except for an alarm clock. This means using an alarm clock rather than your mobile phone. Keeping lap tops, iPads and televisions out of the bedroom is important.


Exercising should form a significant part of your week for good mental and physical health. Exercising helps you to produce endorphins which help you feel good. When you feel good sleep come naturally with or without tinnitus.

If you are having a really strong negative reaction to a tinnitus stimulus you might have lots of cortisol and adrenaline in your system. This can lead to adrenal exhaustion which means that exercising can leave you feeling completely fatigued. The important thing to remember is to start with the right amount of exercise for you and see how you feel. Doing exercise which activates the para sympathetic arm of the nervous system is most helpful. Exercises which do this include relaxed swimming, walking, yoga and tai chi.


Good eating habits are essential for a good night's sleep. This means eating  a healthy balanced diet and eating at the same times each day. It is about finding the right balance for you. It means making sure that you are not going to bed hungry but not going to bed with a full stomach either. Being hungry in bed will stop you sleeping and having to process lots of food whilst you sleep will impact the quality of your sleep. It is advisable to not eat at least two hours before going to bed.

Tinnitus Masking to Help you Sleep with Tinnitus

In the early stages of tinnitus diagnosis you might decide to choose which battles to fight. As sleep is so fundamental to mental health, well being, and influences our ability to handle stress using a tinnitus masker to help us sleep can be a no brainer.

Tinnitus masking provides a pleasant sound which masks the sound of tinnitus. Types of masking might include relaxing music, white noise or nature sounds. We offer the following devices or downloads to help you sleep with tinnitus

Misconceptions about sleeping with tinnitus

Tinnitus does not get worse from poor sleep. It may seem worse because you are more tired, anxious and stressed as a result of a poor night's sleep.

Tinnitus itself does not effect the quality of your sleep or your ability to sleep. Negative cognitive thoughts you think as a result of your tinnitus effects sleep. Negative somatic or physiological responses surrounding tinnitus effect the quality of your sleep.

You might be thinking that your tinnitus is effecting the amount you sleep or your quality of your sleep. Sleeping less and fragmented sleep is a natural part of getting older.

Having tinnitus does not mean you have to miss out on a good night's sleep. It might mean having to work through your difficulties in relation to thoughts surrounding tinnitus and make some changes in terms of your physiological response to it. This is best achieved through Tinnitus Counselling.

Research conducted by the NCBI looked into sleep complaints reported by tinnitus sufferers. They found a correlation between self-rated severity of tinnitus and sleep disturbance. They also found a correlation between tinnitus severity annoyance and and the presence of psychiatric conditions. For example anxiety and stress.

Difficulties arise from your perceived reality rather than the reality itself. It is much more difficult to sleep when you have a negative somatic or cognitive reaction to tinnitus as well as secondary difficulties like anxiety and stress. Secondary difficulties might be attributable to tinnitus however in many cases they are a precursor to tinnitus and tinnitus is a manifestation of those difficulties.

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