For the 20 percent of individuals in Houston who experience tinnitus, bedtime can feel like a chore. The ringing in their ears can keep them awake, leading to sleepless nights spent tossing and turning, glancing at the clock with dread as dawn approaches and they still haven’t caught enough zzz’s. Stopping this cycle is possible, as long as you follow a few strategies for ensuring a good night’s sleep.
Getting restful sleep when you have tinnitus
Tinnitus affects some 50 million Americans to a certain degree. For some people it’s nothing more than an occasional nuisance, but others find it an endless distraction that interferes with many aspects of their daily lives—including sleep. Your Houston audiologist has some tips to help you tame the noise and fall (and stay) asleep more easily.
Incorporating the following into your bedtime routine should help you sleep more soundly.
Masking the ringing in your ears with other sounds will help your brain adapt to tinnitus and assign it less meaning, enabling you to effectively “tune it out.” White noise does the trick quite effectively; you can download a smartphone app or simply turn on an air conditioner or fan or listen to soft music to achieve the same effect. Be sure to set the volume a little lower than your tinnitus; this allows the brain to become used to it. In time, you’ll learn to ignore the tinnitus and focus on the other sounds instead.
Adopt a bedtime routine—and stick to it!
Consistency is key when it comes to training your body that it’s time to go to sleep. Go to bed at the same time every night (yes, even on weekends); getting up at the same time, as well, will help ensure you are adequately tired every night.
Learn to relax
Anxiety and stress exacerbate tinnitus symptoms; relaxation techniques can help overcome this. Before bed, try relaxing physically by taking a hot bath, giving yourself a trigger-point massage using a tennis ball, stretching and practicing progressive muscle relaxation. Calm your mind by reading a book, meditating, practicing breathing techniques or listening to soft music.
Ditch the blue light
The blue light emitted from many screens mimics sunlight and signals your body to quit producing melatonin, a hormone that regulates the sleep/wake cycle. Quit watching TV, using a computer and scrolling through your phone at least an hour before bedtime. If you simply can’t resist checking your phone (hey, we get it!), there are several smartphone apps available that automatically filter and reduce the harmful blue light from your phone; alternatively, set your phone so it goes into “night mode” before bedtime.
Sleep in the dark
Blue light isn’t the only obstacle to a good night’s sleep; ambient light of any kind disrupts sleeping patterns, making it harder to fall and stay asleep. A pitch-dark bedroom solves this problem; hang blackout curtains or wear a sleep mask. If you have a cable box or other device in your bedroom with a permanent “power on” light, cover that up with electrical tape. This won’t leave a sticky residue behind when you remove it.
Lower the thermostat
Some like it hot, but when it comes to sleeping, the cooler, the better—at least according to research. The optimal temperature for a good night’s sleep is between 60 and 68º. If that sounds too chilly, keep in mind that your body’s core temperature drops at bedtime; if the temperature in your surrounding environment is too warm, you may have difficulty falling asleep. Wear socks to bed or keep an extra blanket on hand in case you’re too cold.
Limit caffeine intake
If you enjoy an after-dinner cup of coffee or tea, switch to decaf or try another beverage instead. Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant that increases stress and anxiety and can make you feel jittery. This can keep you up at night or affect the quality of your sleep once you do nod off. Experts recommend avoiding caffeine for eight hours or more before bedtime.
Don’t stay in bed tossing and turning
If you can’t fall asleep or wake up in the middle of the night and find yourself tossing and turning, don’t just stay in bed—it’s unlikely you’ll be able to “will” yourself to sleep. Get up and fix yourself a light snack instead; digestion takes energy, so eating a small snack can actually make you tired. Sit on a comfortable recliner or couch afterward, put on soft music and read a book. When you start to yawn or feel tired, go back to bed. Your body will probably be ready for sleep now.
What should you do if you still can’t sleep?
If these tricks simply don’t work and you find yourself having trouble sleeping consistently, contact an audiologist in Houston. You’ll probably need to undergo a sleep study in order to rule out a disorder such as sleep apnea, which is common in those with a hearing impairment.
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- Busting Those Hearing Myths
- Look at Your Ears for Clues to Your Health
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