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Can Tinnitus Cause Insomnia? (Science Says...Yes!)

by Dale Cudmore | Updated: Sep 20, 2020

Long story short, there’s actually quite a bit of research showing that people who suffer from tinnitus often have sleeping issues as well.

A survey of 174 tinnitus patients found that about 25% of them had chronic sleep issues. The more severe their tinnitus symptoms were, the more likely they were to have difficulty sleeping (1).

If you’d like to know why tinnitus can cause insomnia symptoms, and how it’s usually treated, read the rest of this short post.

The Link Between Stress and Both Insomnia and Tinnitus

One of the biggest risk factors of insomnia is stress.

Stress makes it difficult to get to sleep, that much is obvious.

When researchers have looked at patients with both insomnia and tinnitus, they found that (2)

...objectively showed that patients with insomnia have an increased emotional distress associated with their tinnitus.

In other words, when tinnitus causes people a large amount of stress, it makes sense that it leads to sleep issues.

Furthermore, both tinnitus and insomnia are linked to similar stress-related conditions including depression and anxiety disorders.

To make things worse, there’s some research that suggests that this loop conditions your brain to associate tinnitus with stress, which can cause chronic stress and insomnia issues (3).

SummaryStress caused by tinnitus is the main reason that it leads to insomnia. It’s also possible for the stress that comes as a result of insomnia to make tinnitus symptoms worse (and so on in a vicious cycle.

How Comorbid Tinnitus and Insomnia is Treated

The semi-good news is that since tinnitus and insomnia are often both caused by an underlying amount of stress, they can be treated at the same time for many patients.

Evidence currently supports that stress-relieving therapies have a positive influence on both sleep quality and tinnitus-related distress (4).

The primary therapy used for this is cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) to learn how to manage stressful thoughts better. Research shows that it is highly effective (5).

Similarly, neurofeedback is an approach that has successfully been used to treat insomnia and tinnitus (6).

SummaryWhen a patient has both tinnitus and insomnia (or even lesser sleep issues), a physician will typically prescribe some sort of stress-relieving therapy like CBT.

References

  1. Tinnitus and insomnia
  2. The Effect of Insomnia on Tinnitus
  3. Phantom auditory perception (tinnitus): mechanisms of generation and perception
  4. Tinnitus and insomnia: Is hyperarousal the common denominator?
  5. Evaluation of the tinnitus retraining therapy as combined with a cognitive behavioral group therapy
  6. Neurofeedback for subjective tinnitus patients

Medical Disclaimer: The information on SnoozeUniversity.com is not intended to be a substitute for physician or other qualified care. We simply aim to inform people struggling with sleep issues about the nature of their condition and/or prescribed treatment.


About the authorDale is the founder of Snooze University and a sleep researcher. I overcame my sleep issues and now I'd like to help you do the same by summarizing the latest sleep studies for you.