You first notice the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is bad. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this seem familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not as simple as that. Firstly, many different noises can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people experience stress, for many, tinnitus can appear.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and strong enough to hinder your daily life. Tinnitus is only one of several ways this can physically manifest. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Sure, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you notice tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other situations, it may pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Whether continuous or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could easily be causing your sleep issues. Here are several examples of how:
- It can be difficult to ignore your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even harder to tune out.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.
When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s not surprising that you’re losing sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind 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 severe. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Elevated stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Poor work results: Naturally, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And it’s especially dangerous if you operate heavy machinery, for instance.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the 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 stay away from stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Medical conditions: In some situations, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to a heightened anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety episode. For example, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. oftentimes, the association between the two isn’t very clear. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for example.
Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
- Poor nutrition
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.
How to fix your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic choices available. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some instances, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this approach.
- 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.
You could get better sleep by dealing with your tinnitus
You’ll be in danger 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. To do that, you should give us a call.