You first hear the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And regardless of 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 not good. And suddenly you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. A vicious cycle that deprives 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 bit more complicated than that. Firstly, many different sounds can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. For many people, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and strong enough to interfere with your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Absolutely!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combo of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Certainly, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this connection, any occurrence 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 change to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. There are other circumstances 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?
Your sleep loss could certainly be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and difficult 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 get louder and even more difficult 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 people like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is silent.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, obviously, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of issues.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle continues. And your general wellness can be negatively impacted by this. 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. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can occur.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and wellness. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Inferior work performance: Naturally, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause of anxiety. And knowing these causes is essential (largely because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Medical conditions: You may, in some instances, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a tiger. But it’s less good when you’re working on a project for work. Sometimes, the association between the two isn’t very clear. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for instance.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety episode. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors could also trigger anxiety:
- Lack of nutrition
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should consult your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
How to treat your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
You have two general choices to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that might work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of options for treating 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 approach will help you identify those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this strategy.
Addressing your tinnitus may help you sleep better
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. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible solution. Give us a call so we can help.