You first notice the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this seem familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a little more complex than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many people, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and severe enough to interfere with your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Normally, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Sure, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your ordinary activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make falling asleep a little tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve acknowledged the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few moments and then disappear. Whether constant or sporadic, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to overlook. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to ignore.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus gets worse.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can be much more noticeable when everything is silent.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you may worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of problems.
Health affects of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more significant. And your overall wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily activities will then be more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will worsen if you’re not sleeping. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Inferior work performance: It should come as no shock that if you can’t get to sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. You won’t be as eager or be able to think clearly and quickly.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something stresses us. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, the association between the two is not very clear. Something that triggered a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some instances, have an increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can happen when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded environment, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety response.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Poor nutrition
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This list is not complete. And you should talk to your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus
When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two general options available. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either situation, here’s how that may work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some instances, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
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 next to your ears. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and minimize your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, use a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this strategy.
Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Contact us so we can help.