You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you begin to hear the sound: a pulsing or maybe a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is bad. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, many different sounds can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can manifest.
For people who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have trouble controlling them. Tinnitus is only one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Normally, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your daily activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
So, yeah, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep problems. Here are several examples of how:
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and hard to ignore. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even harder to tune out.
- The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level increases 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 become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more significant. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily activities like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy machinery, for example.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you’re not sleeping. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Poor work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job performance 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 important to recognize what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and possibly reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can happen when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being in a can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s not so good when you’re dealing with an assignment for work. Sometimes, the relationship between the two is not apparent. Something that triggered a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
- Medical conditions: In some situations, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an elevated anxiety response.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Some recreational drugs
- Poor nutrition
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment solutions.
Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus
You have two basic choices to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to treat the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
In general, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting 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. Here are some common treatments:
- 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): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
- 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 approach.
You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you awake at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should contact us.