You’re lying in bed trying to sleep when you begin to hear the sound: a pulsing or perhaps a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, lots of different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have trouble managing them. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically manifest. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might 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 result from not sleeping.
- You might be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Whether constant or intermittent, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep issues. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus will get worse.
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can be much more noticeable when everything is silent.
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and difficult to dismiss. 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 increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even more difficult to tune out.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, naturally, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of issues.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more profound as this vicious cycle continues. And this can really have a negative impact on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common effects:
- Inferior work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will suffer. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. This can make daily activities such as driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- 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’re not sleeping. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause of anxiety. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. For example, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s not so good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Sometimes, the association between the two is not apparent. 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.
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an elevated anxiety response.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors may also trigger anxiety:
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Some recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment possibilities.
How to fix your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that might work in either case:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Medication: In some instances, medication could help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less noticeable.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you identify 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 next to your ears. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
You may get better sleep by dealing with 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. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should give us a call.