The Strange Sound At Night That Many People Don’t Realize Is The Body’s Natural ‘Stress Response’

Has this unnerving noise been interrupting your sleep?

woman laying in bed, can't sleep Pormezz / Shutterstock

Many people struggle with insomnia, whether it be due to anxiety, major life changes, poor diets, or mental health struggles. Some surprising manifestations of stress can also lead to sleep struggles, as they make it difficult to rest and unwind.

Trauma and stress coach Liz Tenuto, known as the “The Workout Witch” on social media, explained one such manifestation, educating viewers on an annoying phenomenon that they likely never realized is an indicator of stress.  


According to the trauma coach, a strange sound many experience before falling asleep is a sign your body is ‘stuck’ in a ‘stress response.’ 

Our bodies actively communicate with us all day long — whether it be reminding us to eat, warning us about potentially bad situations, or simply holding tension when we’re feeling overwhelmed. 

When stressed, many people have reported weight gain, cold sweats, irritability, and rapid breathing in correlation with anxiety, which Harvard Health evidence suggests are true bodily responses to stress. But there are also less commonly discussed manifestations, including one that content creator Paul Johnston-Naylor posted about.




Duetting Johnston-Naylor's video, in which he referenced struggling to sleep because "your pillow's heartbeat keeps you up," Tenuto provided an explanation. “It’s called Pulsatile Tinnitus,” she wrote in her TikTok. “It sounds like rhythmic thumping or whooshing in your ears which is exacerbated by stress.”

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Pulsatile Tinnitus is the name of the beat or sounds many people hear in their ears when lying down, often speeding up or slowing down to match the person’s heart rate. 


While studies claim the sounds are simply “annoying” for many people, they can also be “debilitating and intense” for others, making it difficult to concentrate or sleep. Many people aren’t aware of the noise in their daily lives, but when they lie down in bed with no background noise to drown it out, it becomes impossible to relax.

The Strange Sound At Night That’s Actually A Stress ResponsePhoto: Lysenko Andrii / Shutterstock

“This is probably why you sleep with the T.V. or a fan on, always need music playing and hate the sound of silence,” Tenuto wrote. 


Pulsatile Tinnitus is surprisingly common.

Johnston-Naylor is far from the only person to experience this frustrating phenomenon. In her video, Tenuto claimed it's actually "super common."

In fact, according to The Hearing Center, nearly 1.5 million Americans currently experience pulsatile tinnitus, with approximately 50 million having encountered it within their lifetime. 

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There are ways to coach your body into ‘de-stressing’ to alleviate the noise.

Many experts suggest relaxation techniques, like meditation, to help with unnecessary stress and anxiety. Therapy has also been found to be beneficial in helping people learn to pay less attention to the noise in their heads. Additionally, sound generators, like white noise, can help you to fall asleep. 


Changes to your diet and managing nutritional intake are also effective in easing stress. In a TikTok, nutritionist Claire Sorlie suggested having caffeine after breakfast and consuming magnesium-rich foods like avocados, hemp seeds, and coconut milk. 



Both of these things help to fuel your body and stimulate your nervous system in ways that alleviate stress and reduce the sounds that keep you up at night. 

If you’re taking active steps to reduce stress and are still hearing the annoying “whooshing” sound at night, experts recommend seeking attention from a health professional. 


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Zayda Slabbekoorn is a news and entertainment writer at YourTango focusing on pop culture and human interest stories.