I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the relationship between sleep and an increase in dizziness and ear symptoms. I recall reading posts from people who believe their dizziness IMPROVES when they sleep LESS. This seems counter-intuitive at first glance. I’m wondering, however, if some of these people have undiagnosed sleep apnea, which can cause a cascade of vascular events possibly resulting in vestibular problems.
I know that there is a clear association between sleep apnea and Meniere’s Disease, and, in some cases, symptoms improve with treatment via CPAP. Sleep apnea may cause an increase in blood viscosity (thickness) by stimulating production of more red blood cells, the cells that carry oxygen in the blood. (Lack of oxygen during sleep apnic events triggers the body to create additional RBCs to facilitate transportation of more oxygen.) Sleep apnea has also been linked to platelet activation, further increasing the blood’s viscosity. I’m speculating that the increased viscosity of the blood prevents proper perfusion (flow) of the blood into the small blood vessels in the inner ear causing faulty signals to the brain, resulting in dizziness and tinnitus.
Moreover, I’ve also read about chemical reactions that occur upon awakening that increase platelet aggregation. If someone has sleep apnea and repeated micro-arrousals due to lower oxygen levels, snoring, or whatever, I wonder if the platelets in the blood tend to clump repeatedly during the night leading to ischemic (blocked vessels) events in the blood vessels in the inner ear. In those with this tendency, perhaps NOT sleeping prevents these ischemic events indirectly and allows continued and appropriate blood flow to the inner ear.
Again, this is all just my theory. I found recent posts by folks on this board fascinating, especially the ones regarding polycythemia (increased hemoglobin/hematocrit) and its association with dizziness/tinnitus, and the post regarding Dr. Carol Foster’s (ENT in Colorado) theory regarding a possible intersection of two events as a cause of Meniere’s Disease: 1) hydrops; and 2) a vascular event.
As an aside, I have an appt on Monday with my ENT to discuss sleep apnea as a possible explanation of my increased red blood cell and H and H counts for the past two years. (I’ve further been told I snore like a freight train, despite my petiteness.) As nutty as it sounds, as an experiment, yesterday I donated a pint of blood for the first time to see what, if any, impact it would have on my symptoms. (My hypothesis was that donating blood would decrease the viscosity- thickness- of the remaining blood by ridding the body of red blood cells, thus allowing the blood to perfuse the inner ear blood vessels properly.) This morning, I woke up without tinnitus for the first time in almost two weeks! Perhaps a coincidence, but I’m really starting to not believe in coincidences!
Anyway, sorry for my ramblings. Not sure if any of this helps anyone at all, but just thought I would throw my speculations out there in case it gets someone else thinking creatively regarding the etiology of their symptoms.