You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you first hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely related. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the outcome.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Tinnitus is typically defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a little more complicated than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is a condition in which feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are difficult to control and strong enough to interfere with your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combo of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Normally, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed. As your stress level rises your tinnitus will get worse.
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is quiet.
- It can be hard to disregard your tinnitus and that can be very stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to tune out.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. It’s not surprising that you’re losing sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more hazardous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy equipment, for instance.
- Inferior work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job performance will suffer. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Increased stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the association between the two is not obvious. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress response last week. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can happen when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety response.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have an increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.
Other factors: Less frequently, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Poor nutrition
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Some recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
This list is not complete. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment solutions.
Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus
You have two basic options to treat anxiety-related tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent anxiety attacks.
There are a variety of ways to treat tinnitus and this is especially true if symptoms manifest primarily at night. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this strategy.
Addressing your tinnitus may help you sleep better
You’ll be at risk of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you awake at night. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Give us a call so we can help.