Tips for a good night’s sleep

Sleep is very much a matter of habit and routine. More often than not, poor sleep results from poor routines. Often the things we do to try and solve sleep problems actually make them worse. So here are some suggestions.

Do talk to your doctor if you suffer from insomnia. Sleep loss may be related to some other medical condition which may be treatable.

Consider an offer of sleep medication if it is offered by your GP. Medication is not a long-term solution to insomnia, but with medical guidance it can be a great relief for a short-term crisis.

Don’t use alcohol or ‘over the counter’ medicines to induce sleep. They may send you to sleep but will also disrupt the normal sleep pattern. You may wake sooner and have greater trouble getting back to sleep.

Limit the amount of caffeine (tea, coffee, cola, energy drinks) and nicotine you take. These are stimulants and may help keep you awake. It may not be necessary to give them up completely, but rather cut down or cut them out in the evening.

Keep active during the day. Fit people sleep better than those who are unfit. However, don’t exercise near bedtime. Exercise late at night may tire you out but it may also disrupt the normal sleep cycle.

Try to unwind for at least an hour before bedtime. A busy mind makes it more difficult to sleep.

Write down any worries that you may have. Spend a set amount of time (say 15-20 minutes) doing this each evening. If you are able to, consider how you might resolve them. Even if you can’t resolve your worries, writing them down can reduce anxiety.

Practice relaxation exercises during the day. Find some short form of relaxation to try at night. Read more about <relaxation techniques>.

Go to bed when you feel sleepy, not just because it’s a certain time on the clock.

Don’t use the bedroom for things apart from sleep (and relaxation.) Don’t watch television, complete crosswords or write work reports (for example) in bed. These things may distract you but they will also stimulate your mind. A busy mind will keep you awake.

Turn the light off as soon as you get into bed. Tell yourself that sleep will come when it’s ready. Don’t ‘try hard’ to go to sleep – resting in bed can be just as helpful.

Background sound can help mask the quiet of the room and the sound of tinnitus. Try different sounds and find what works for you. Some people use the sound of a fan or clocks ticking, have a radio on quietly or play natural noise such as waves or rain. Read more about sound therapy.

Do get up and go to another room if you are not asleep in 25 to 30 minutes. Do something relaxing like reading and go back to bed when you feel sleepy again. Repeat the process if you are not asleep in another 30 minutes.

Get up at the same time each day – even at weekends. Try not to sleep in the day. This will help you to keep your body clock in a helpful cycle.

Don’t take it easy after a bad night’s sleep. This might make the day more boring and increase the sense of tiredness. Most people can still do quite a lot after a bad night, and if you do, you may feel better for it – but use common sense.

Further reading

Overcoming insomnia and sleep problems: a self-help guide using cognitive behavioural techniques (2nd edition) by Colin A Espie (Robinson Publishing, ISBN-13 978-1472141415) 

Sleepfaring: a journey through the science of sleep by Jim Horne (OUP Oxford ISBN-13 978-0199228379) 

Living with tinnitus and hyperacusis (2nd edition) by Laurence McKenna, David Baguley and Don McFerran (Sheldon Press ISBN-13 978-1529375350) 

Help and support

Our Tinnitus Support Team can answer your questions on any tinnitus related topics:

We also offer a free tinnitus e-learning programme, Take on Tinnitus.