Do you struggle with getting to sleep or falling back to sleep? You are far from alone. Many of my clients list this as one of their most frustrating challenges with tinnitus when they first start the Bee Empowered program. The good news is that there is a lot you can do to improve your sleep.
First off, we need to remember that many people who have never heard of tinnitus struggle to fall asleep either when they go to bed, or if they wake up for some reason in the night. There’s a multi-billion-dollar industry out there of tablets, books, courses and devices to help sleep. So, sometimes our tinnitus gets the blame for poor sleep when there may be a range of other issues keeping us from peaceful slumber. Things that prevent us getting a decent sleep include pain or other health conditions, stress at work or at home, noisy neighbours, snoring partners, a Netflix addiction, gaming, and social media.
Anxiety or worry is one of the commonest sleep-stealers. No sooner does our head hit the pillow than our brain decides to process the day that is ending and plan for the day ahead. You might find yourself worrying about something you said to a friend that they took the wrong way. Or you might be worrying about a medical appointment or work meeting taking place the next day.
Whether it’s your tinnitus causing your sleep challenges or other issues, here are 5 simple tactics to use when you can’t sleep:
1. If you don’t fall asleep within 20 minutes, get out of bed, leave the bedroom and do something gently distracting. This could be reading, watching some not too exciting TV (no horror films or thrillers!) or pottering around downstairs tidying things away etc. Avoid blue screens (tablets or phones as these can make you more wakeful). You might even play relaxing music, if that won’t disturb anyone else in the house. This breaks the worry cycle, and also teaches your brain that your bed is for sleeping, not for lying awake worrying and being hyper-aware of your tinnitus, anxiety or pain.
2. If your mind is busy with thoughts and worries grab a pen and paper and write them down. This can help stop them whirring around your head and keeping you awake. Finish this with writing three things that you are grateful for right now. We can always find three things – even if they are the old staples of 1) I have food in the kitchen 2) I have a roof over my head 3) I have a job/enough money to manage.
3. Find a comfy place to sit and try some autogenic relaxation. Here’s a good link to an Introductory Meditation
4. Don’t worry about how sleep-deprived you might feel tomorrow. Unless you drive for a living, or are a surgeon, most of us can manage a day with less sleep than we’d ideally like. You might be in a position where you can shuffle your work around and do tasks that require less brain power. If you’re not, then good old coffee and caffeine can help (thought it’s still sensible not to over-do it if you don’t want to be totally wired that night and unable to sleep again!)
5. Head back to bed when you feel sleepy. If you are very aware of your tinnitus you could try playing masking sounds, or soothing sounds. You can do that via apps on your smartphone (Beltone is a good free one). If you don’t share your bedroom, you can leave that playing on your bedside table or on your pillow (you can set a timer), or if you do, I recommend sleep phones which are headphones in a soft headband you can wear comfortably at night. I love them!
If you’ve got sleep tips please let me know, so I can share them with the tinnitus community.