Waking up to the unsettling sounds of tinnitus can feel like a peaceful morning has been stolen away. If you're among the many who find their tinnitus is louder in the morning, know this: you're not alone. In fact, research shows that tinnitus is perceived as louder and more distressing during the early morning hours .
For those hoping for quieter mornings, gaining a better understanding of tinnitus, its potential causes, and how to manage it can be helpful. While professional advice is key, there are steps you can take on your own to lessen tinnitus's disruption in your day-to-day life.
In this article, we'll explore why tinnitus might be worse in the morning. We'll also discuss strategies to help you navigate and lessen the disruption it can cause, offering a path towards more peaceful mornings.
Why Do I Wake Up with My Ears Ringing?
If you find your ears ringing in the morning on a regular basis, it can be quite distressing. To grasp why this happens, it's helpful to have a deeper understanding of what tinnitus is and how our bodies respond to it, particularly in the early hours.
While tinnitus can sound different to each individual experiencing it, it is most often described as a ringing, buzzing, or hissing sound in the ears. It's been suggested that it's not just the silence of the night that amplifies these intrusive sounds. Other factors may also explain why some people wake up with their ears ringing. These include:
Our brain activity changes as we move from sleep to wakefulness. During this transition, our auditory system becomes more alert, making us more aware of sounds we might not notice during the day. This heightened state of auditory awareness can make morning tinnitus seem more intense.
Another contributing factor is the role of stress and anxiety, with stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline potentially impacting the perception of tinnitus. When we wake up, our minds begin to process the demands of the day, potentially causing stress levels to rise and, in turn, increasing our awareness of tinnitus.
Dehydration thickens the fluid within the ears, possibly amplifying the perception of tinnitus. Since we often wake up dehydrated after a long night's sleep, this could be another reason why the internal sounds are more noticeable in the morning.
Certain ototoxic medications (drugs that can damage the sensory cells in the inner ear) can enhance tinnitus' intrusive sounds. If you're taking such medication and notice your tinnitus more in the morning, it's worth discussing this with your healthcare professional to explore alternative solutions.
Sleeping positions may seem trivial, but they could potentially affect the awareness of tinnitus upon waking. For example, lying on one side for an extended period, in some cases, can lead to increased blood pressure in the ear against the pillow, potentially intensifying tinnitus. With that said, the relationship between sleeping positions and tinnitus isn't fully understood, and more research is needed to confirm these observations.
Our brains don't switch off while we're asleep; in fact, specific functions come alive during this phase, from memory consolidation to the processing of emotions. This heightened activity could make our brain more susceptible to internal sounds like tinnitus.
Strategies to Soothe the Impact of Tinnitus in the Morning
Recognising the impact tinnitus can have on your well-being is the first step towards successfully managing it. Fortunately, several strategies can help you reduce your awareness of tinnitus, particularly in the morning.
Habituation, also known as ‘tuning out tinnitus’, involves allowing tinnitus to become part of your auditory landscape, much like the constant hum of a refrigerator or the ticking of a clock. In other words, you are still aware of the ringing or buzzing sounds, but they become so familiar that they are pushed to the back of your mind.
This cognitive shift does not occur overnight and requires consistent effort and patience. Fortunately, there are a number of scientifically proven techniques, such as cognitive behavioural therapy (mentioned below), that can aid this process and help individuals manage their perceptions and reactions to conditions like tinnitus.
Each day, even if the sounds are there when you wake up, remind yourself that they are not a threat but rather an unwanted guest. Over time, you may find that you start to notice your tinnitus less, even upon waking.
Good Sleep Hygiene
Maintaining good sleep hygiene can be instrumental in managing the presence of tinnitus, particularly in the morning.
A stable sleep schedule, which involves going to bed and waking up at roughly the same times each day, can support your body's internal clock, promoting better sleep overall.
It's also important to create a welcoming sleep environment, which could include anything from investing in comfortable bedding to ensuring your room is dark, quiet, and at a suitable temperature and reducing your exposure to blue light (emitted by devices like smartphones and laptops) in the hours leading up to bedtime.
It's worth keeping an eye on what you consume in the hours before bed. Stimulants like caffeine and nicotine can disrupt your sleep as they increase your heart rate and alertness. Similarly, while alcohol might initially make you drowsy, it will lead to disrupted sleep later in the night.
Mindfulness and Meditation
Incorporating mindfulness and meditation into your daily routine might just make those morning tinnitus sounds a little less intrusive. As you wake, instead of focusing on the tinnitus, you could focus on the sensation of the bedsheets against your skin or the rhythm of your breath, thus starting your day on a calmer note.
In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Audiology revealed that mindfulness-based interventions could significantly lessen the distress associated with tinnitus .
Physical activity is renowned for stimulating the release of endorphins, the body's natural mood elevators. These chemicals can foster a sense of well-being and even bring about a positive distraction from the sounds of tinnitus.
Exercise can also soothe your nervous system, promoting a state of relaxation and calm, which can be conducive to achieving a more restful sleep and reducing the perceived intensity of tinnitus in the morning.
Whether it's a morning yoga session, a lunchtime swim, or an evening jog, find what works best for you. Not only could you notice your tinnitus less upon waking, but your overall health and well-being could also be boosted.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Originally designed for mental health disorders, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) has shown promising results in assisting those with tinnitus. By working to reframe the negative thoughts and reactions associated with the condition, individuals can significantly reduce their awareness of the intrusive sounds. Though you may still notice your tinnitus, CBT can help lessen its impact on your emotional well-being and quality of life.
Discover how to tune out tinnitus with our free webinar
Oto's Revolutionary Tinnitus Programme
At Oto, we recognise the disruption tinnitus can cause. Waking up to the intrusive hum can be daunting, but there's good news. We've created a digital platform designed to guide you along your tinnitus journey.
Oto, an easy-to-use mobile application, provides an innovative digital tinnitus programme, bringing together expert-crafted content that addresses sleep, focus, and learning, aspects often impacted by tinnitus. This cutting-edge tool is the brainchild of a team that intimately understands tinnitus, both personally and professionally. This lived experience is at the heart of our mission: supporting you to reclaim your life from tinnitus.
Our comprehensive techniques, ranging from sleep aids to focus-enhancing sounds, are all accessible right at your fingertips. You can also learn from the best with our regular webinars and Q&A sessions with top tinnitus specialists from around the world. Plus, to ensure you never feel alone in this journey, we provide success stories from others who've walked the path before you.
But the support doesn't stop there. With Oto, you also have the option of a one-to-one programme. This package pairs our innovative app with expert video coaching sessions, all geared towards supporting you to notice your tinnitus less in the shortest possible time.
At the core of Oto's strategy is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), a method proven effective in coping with tinnitus. We adapt to each individual's needs, offering a highly personalised path toward habituation.
Waking up to the intrusive sounds of tinnitus can indeed disrupt your mornings, but remember, you're not without resources or support. By understanding tinnitus, practising habituation, maintaining good sleep hygiene, engaging in mindfulness, and regular physical activity, you can help to reduce your awareness of tinnitus upon waking.
And remember, the Oto app is here to guide you on your path to noticing your tinnitus less, providing expert resources at your fingertips. Why not take that first step towards habituation and download the Oto app today? Together, we can minimise the impact of tinnitus on your life.
1. Pryss, R. C., Langguth, B., Rauschecker, J. P., Schobel, J., Reichert, M., Spiliopoulou, M., Schlee, W., & Zimmermann, J. (2017, August 2). Does tinnitus depend on time-of-day? an ecological momentary assessment study with the “trackyourtinnitus” application. Frontiers in aging neuroscience. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5539131/
2. Gans, J. J., O’Sullivan, P., & Bircheff, V. (2013, January 22). Mindfulness based Tinnitus Stress Reduction Pilot Study - Mindfulness. SpringerLink. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-012-0184-4