Insomnia and Tinnitus

Written by: Phoebe Clouser, Au.D.

Everyone has experienced a restless night, tossing and turning, and unable to fall asleep.  We all know how awful it is to lie awake at night wondering if you are ever going to get to sleep.  Many patients with tinnitus experience this inability to sleep so often that it becomes classified as insomnia and truly starts impacting their overall quality of life.  Both tinnitus and insomnia can be debilitating on their own, however, when the two are experienced together, the associated distress can become even more severe.

Patients with tinnitus often experience stress, anxiety, depression and inability to fall asleep. It is possible that when a patient goes to bed, it is the first time all day they are experiencing complete silence.  The noisy environment during the day can often distract a person from their tinnitus.  However, once they are in the quietness of their own bedroom, the tinnitus often becomes more noticeable.  Once the tinnitus becomes more noticeable it is common for a person to become very bothered by it, to fear it is getting worse, or to wonder whether it’s going to keep them up at night.
If you have ever had difficulty sleeping, you know that lack of sleep can also lead to stress, anxiety and depression.  When you cannot sleep for many nights in a row and it starts impacting your daily routine, it is considered insomnia.  Not sleeping may also then lead to a higher perception of your tinnitus and therefore an increased annoyance from it.  Thus, the vicious and worrisome cycle begins.
So, what can you do?  Avoid silence.  If you have a fan on in your bedroom, or a noise machine on your nightstand, the sounds will ideally lower the perception of your tinnitus.  Relaxing sounds such as rain drops, or ocean waves crashing will reduce your stress while also reducing the awareness of the tinnitus.   Over the counter Melatonin can sometimes be helpful with helping you sleep as well as reducing tinnitus.  Also talk to your audiologist.  Do not suffer in silence and know that there are options for you.
 

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