Tinnitus can cause difficulty falling asleep and frequent awakenings. Poor sleep quality due to tinnitus may also affect a person in the daytime, including higher stress levels and difficulty functioning.

Tinnitus involves noises in the ears, typically with no external sound source. These noises vary widely among individuals and might sound like ringing or hissing.

Tinnitus can occur in one ear, both ears, or the head. It may be constant or intermittent, and its intensity can vary from a mild annoyance to a debilitating condition affecting daily life.

This article explains how tinnitus can impact a person’s sleep, including whether sleeping position affects tinnitus and tips for managing tinnitus at night.

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According to a 2023 study, the prevalence of sleep disorders among people with tinnitus ranges from 25–77%.

Tinnitus may contribute to the following sleep disorders or disruptions:

  • insomnia
  • difficulty falling asleep
  • frequent awakenings
  • light or fragmented sleep
  • poor sleep quality, including less time in REM sleep

A lack of sleep, or good quality sleep, may also affect a person with tinnitus during the day. People may experience worsening mental health, including higher levels of stress, which may further exacerbate tinnitus perception and sleep, creating a cycle.

People may also experience difficulty concentrating and irritability during the day.

Can sleeping position affect tinnitus?

Sleeping position may affect tinnitus for some people, particularly if their tinnitus has an objective, underlying cause.

For example, some people may experience tinnitus due to idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), which occurs due to increased pressure in the brain without a known cause.

This pressure may improve when standing up. Therefore, people with tinnitus due to IIH may experience better sleep and fewer symptoms if they sleep propped up on pillows or using an incline bed.

People with pulsatile tinnitus on one side of the head may experience fewer symptoms when they rotate their head toward the affected side.

However, sleeping position will not affect symptoms for everyone with tinnitus.

Sleeping well with tinnitus can be challenging. However, people can employ the following strategies to make tinnitus less noticeable at night or improve their sleep more generally:

Certain tinnitus treatments, such as cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), may also teach people methods to manage their symptoms and get better sleep with tinnitus.

The impact of earplugs may depend on the nature and cause of a person’s tinnitus. For some types of tinnitus, particularly where external noise exacerbates the condition, earplugs might offer relief.

However, for others, silence might make tinnitus more noticeable.

Instead of earplugs, some people with tinnitus might benefit from using a white noise machine or other sound therapy devices at night.

These can provide a constant, soothing sound that masks tinnitus, potentially making it easier to fall asleep without intensifying the perception of tinnitus.

There is no cure for subjective tinnitus, but a healthcare professional can help people manage their symptoms.

People can speak with a healthcare professional if their tinnitus symptoms worsen or begin to significantly affect sleep despite attempts to manage symptoms.

A doctor may be able to provide new treatment strategies to help a person manage tinnitus or to improve their sleep quality and duration.

People should also speak with a doctor if they experience tinnitus alongside the following symptoms, which could indicate an underlying condition:

Tinnitus can adversely affect sleep quality and duration. People with tinnitus may also have a higher risk of certain sleep disorders, including insomnia.

Managing tinnitus and its impact on sleep often involves a combination of strategies, including sound therapy, behavioral therapies, and sometimes medication to help mitigate the symptoms and promote better sleep quality.

People experiencing tinnitus should consult healthcare professionals for personalized advice and treatment options.