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 in tune with your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a lot to do tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is no good. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of shapes, from pulsation to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is a condition in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and intense enough to hinder your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically materialize. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Certainly!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- You might be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you notice tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
- Usually, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then move to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Whether continuous or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and hard to dismiss. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even more difficult to ignore.
When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, obviously, make it very hard to sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep affects your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will become much more substantial. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily activities will then be more hazardous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy equipment, for example.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
- Inferior work performance: Clearly, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. It’s important to recognize what these causes are so you can try to avoid stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to a heightened anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can happen when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded place, for instance, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety response.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something stresses us. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the association between the two is not apparent. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress response last week. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for example.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Lack of nutrition
- Some recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should consult your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
How to fix your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two basic choices to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of possibilities for treating anxiety:
- Medication: In some instances, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. 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:
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This could 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 effect it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better
You’ll be at risk 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. Contact us so we can help.