You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is pulsing in rhythm with 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 all of a sudden you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can anxiety cause tinnitus?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a large number of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many people, tinnitus can happen when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have difficulty managing them. Tinnitus is only one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Most people 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 it more difficult to get to sleep. And that insomnia can itself lead to more anxiety.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and eventually move to both. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few moments and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and difficult to dismiss. If you’re laying there just attempting 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 ignore.
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is quiet.
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s no wonder that you’re having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more severe. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common effects:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will worsen if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
- Poor work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t get to sleep, your job performance will become affected. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. This can make daily activities like driving a little more hazardous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy equipment, for example.
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 avoid stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: You may, in some instances, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- 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 when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. Sometimes, the association between the two isn’t very clear. Something that triggered a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. You may even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety episode. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety response.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Some recreational drugs
- Poor nutrition
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment options.
How to treat your anxiety-related tinnitus?
You have two basic options to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to treat the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that might work in either case:
There are a couple of possibilities for treating anxiety:
- Medication: In some cases, medication may 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 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:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this approach.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
You may 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. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should contact us.