For most people heading to bed means a time of peace and quiet. But for sufferers of tinnitus, bedtime can be loudest time of the day.
When the kids are in bed, radios no longer blaring, traffic noise from street has died down and even the dog is curled up in their basket, there’s simply no ambient noise to distract sufferers from the ringing, buzzing or hissing in their ears.
The silence can truly be deafening.
When your bed is no longer a sanctuary of peace it can mean bad things for your ability to sleep. Poor sleep can in turn make the symptoms of tinnitus more pronounced.
A cruel cycle indeed. In fact a poor night’s rest makes pretty much everything in life worse.
Before you despair and go reaching for a handful of industrial strength sleeping pills, take a look at these three simple lifestyle changes that could help you manage sleep a little bit better with tinnitus.
#1 Only go to bed tired
Sounds obvious but unfortunately in this day and age very few of us actually go to bed tired, for a number of reasons.
Firstly due to our largely sedentary, desk and couch-based lifestyles, most of us don’t actually undergo enough physical exertion through the course of the day to be tired come nightfall.
This is both due to the interactive nature of our technology and the devilish bluelight they all emit which plays havoc with our circadian rhythms.
The consequence of this is that when we lay our head upon the pillow at night we’re not actually ready for bed. The clock may tell us it’s bedtime but our mind is racing. As a result it latches onto the ringing in our ears and begins to create or exacerbate worry and stress.
This is a sixty minute period before bed in which you avoid all screens.
Oh, and get more exercise. Go out during the day and get a little bit sweaty and out of breath. You don’t have to overthink this, just go chase a squirrel in the park or take the dog for a walk. The difference on your ability to sleep will be instantly noticeable.
#2 Worry less
Easier said than done I know but there are things you can do to help this.
Many individuals have tinnitus and still sleep well. Actually a fair proportion of ear ringers report that sleep is actually something of a sweet relief from the day.
Those that sleep well and those that struggle to drop off don’t appear to have different forms of tinnitus. What appears to distinguish the two groups is how much they worry about it.
This is especially true for individuals who are light sleepers and who may wake frequently in the night. It’s unlikely that tinnitus was responsible for rousing them, but if the first thing they do when awake is to worry about getting back to sleep due to the ringing, anxiety will kick in.
When we are anxious or stressed we are less likely to sleep.
Both Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and mindfulness meditation have both been shown to be quite successful in helping sufferers of tinnitus to worry less about their condition. With a reduction in stress comes better sleep.
#3 Say no to a nightcap
Alcohol, and marijuana are both frequently used by poor sleepers as a means to drop off.
As both are sedatives and muscle relaxants this seems to make sense. However, sedation is a very different thing to sleep.
While a nightcap or a toke before bed might help a sufferer of tinnitus fall to sleep initially, it’s unlikely to promote a full night’s rest.
This is because both substances interfere with the brain’s transition from light sleep to deep ‘slow wave’ sleep. This being the really good, truly rejuvenating, stuff that comes later into our sleep cycles.
On top of this, there’s also considerable evidence to say that alcohol can increase the symptoms of tinnitus.
The two might seem unconnected but researchers have found that alcohol increases the blood flow to the inner ear. Especially red wine for some reason. Sorry any Merlot fans out there!
Some even believe that excessive drinking can in fact lead to the development of tinnitus in the first place. Although this could also have a lot to do with the fact that drinking tends to occur in loud situations such as pubs.
Well, there you have it…
Three ways to turn down the volume on tinnitus and increase the odds of getting a little bit more of your much needed vitamin Zzzzs.
Here’s to a better night tonight and every night!