You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, inside of 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. 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, not very sleepy.
Does this situation sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely related. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Tinnitus is generally defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, lots of different noises can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of dread, 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? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combo of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your daily activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make falling asleep a bit tricky. And more anxiety can come 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 due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yeah, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep problems. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to get stressed. As your stress level increases your tinnitus will get worse.
- It can be hard to disregard your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. In the silence 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 get louder and even harder to ignore.
- Most individuals sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can become much more obvious.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you may worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. It’s not surprising that you’re having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of problems.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more profound as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily activities like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly dangerous if you run heavy equipment, for example.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you don’t sleep. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
- Inferior work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only source of anxiety. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus while you’re at it. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Medical conditions: You may, in some cases, have a heightened anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Sometimes, the connection between the two isn’t very clear. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress response a week ago. Even a stressor from last year can trigger an anxiety attack now.
- 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.
Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Lack of nutrition
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Some recreational drugs
This list is not complete. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment solutions.
Treating anxiety-related tinnitus
You have two general choices to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you recognize those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively avoid 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.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- 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 produce new thought patterns.
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 in danger of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Give us a call so we can help.