One of the most important things you can do for your health is to get quality sleep.
Having quality sleep each night helps restore your mind and muscles, contributing to better mental and physical health. With a good night’s rest, you’ll be alert and energized because you’ll have given your mind and body the time needed to rejuvenate. If you are consistently missing out on 7-9 hours of sleep each night, you will experience sleep deprivation and your overall health will suffer in various ways.
Sleep deprivation contributes to a long list of medical issues. Some include short-term and long-term memory loss, high blood pressure, mood changes, weight gain, and other serious health conditions. Recently, studies have reported that a lack of sleep may even be associated with damages to your hearing.
How sleep impacts your hearing
The two may seem unrelated, but your auditory senses are linked to your sleep quality through a chain of different systems in your body that are affected when you lose sleep. Your hearing can be hindered by your loss of sleep in two main ways: loss of ability to concentrate and impaired blood flow.
Alertness and concentration
A study involving listening tests in otherwise healthy adults found that brain functions associated with hearing, also known as central auditory processing (CAP), are impacted by a lack of sleep. This report showed that CAP functions are dependent on alertness and concentration.
When experiencing sleep deprivation, CAP performance is lower than usual. Because of this, you may have trouble concentrating and fully processing the sounds you are hearing. If you are experiencing exhaustion, this can lead to difficulties in hearing because your mind isn’t adequately rested.
Decreased blood flow
Sleeping less can slow down the blood flow and circulation in your vessels. Sufficient blood flow is vital for sustaining regular bodily and cognitive abilities. When this is inhibited, you will experience complications, even in your hearing.
Our ears are dependent on the nutrients that are delivered from normal blood flow. When you lose sleep and damage your blood vessels, the ear will not receive the nutrients it requires for proper function, which results in damage to your auditory hair cells.
The hair cells in your ear are responsible for turning received sound into electrical impulses that our brain processes. Once these hairs are damaged or destroyed, they are not capable of regeneration. Therefore, when you lose sleep, you’re at risk of losing auditory hair cells and the ability to process sounds as well as once before.
While this may not be as serious of a concern for someone who misses out on a few hours of sleep every now and then, it is important for those who consistently miss out on quality hours of sleep or already have hearing complications.
Sleep apnea and hearing
There are also connections between those affected with sleep apnea and hearing loss. People who experience sleep apnea, a sleep disorder where breathing is interrupted during sleep, can stop breathing repeatedly during their sleep. This restricts the brain from receiving enough oxygen.
Recent studies have found that sleep apnea is linked to hearing loss at both high and low frequencies. Even after adjusting the data for possible other causes of hearing loss, the results still proved true.
Dr. Neomi Shah, a contributor to the study and member of the pulmonary sleep lab at Montefiore Medical Center, explained the overall impacts of this sleeping disorder. “Sleep apnea is more of a systemic and chronic disease than just something that happens when you’re sleeping.”
The known associations between sleep apnea and other bodily dysfunctions such as inflammation and impairment to blood vessels suggests this connection to hearing loss.
Tinnitus and sleep
People who suffer from tinnitus report increased stress levels and decreased sleep quality.
Those who are diagnosed with tinnitus can be more prone to sleep deprivation, which can lead to reduced cognitive function and inflammation in the body causing further damage to your auditory senses.
Tips for getting better sleep
For the sake of your hearing and overall health, it’s vital to get a good night’s rest. Here are some tips to help if you’re struggling to rest well consistently:
Invest in a sound machine. Particularly if you suffer from tinnitus, a sound machine will help create a wall of sound to mask your tinnitus rather than hearing the ringing in silence.
Cover all your senses. If the light is bothering your eyes while you’re trying to sleep, darken your room with black out curtains to give you an oasis for sleep.
Find a better mattress for you. A bad mattress is one of the biggest causes of trouble sleeping. Mattresses come in many different varieties. If you need to personalize your sleep, look into how to find a better bed for your needs.
Set up a routine. The more consistent your schedule for falling asleep and waking up, the easier it will be to follow. Set up a routine that prepares you for rest each night. Try a warm bath, herbal tea, or some nighttime yoga to get you in the mood for sleep.
Sleep health and hearing health
While the associations between your sleep and your hearing may not be direct, the two are connected in the grand scheme of your health.
Sleeping well will help you remain alert during the day and have higher levels of concentration, along with maintaining regular blood flow to properly supply your body with the nutrients it needs. In order to best maintain your best hearing and overall health, it’s important to find ways to have restorative sleep each night.