You first hear the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, right in your ear. 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 lot to do tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is bad. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this situation sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely related. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to produce a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complex than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsation to throbbing to ringing and so on. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and intense enough to hinder your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically manifest. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first sign of a more serious anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
- Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself lead to more anxiety.
Often, tinnitus can start 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 go away. 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-driven tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep problems. Here are several examples of how:
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can be much more noticeable when everything is quiet.
- It can be difficult to disregard your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can get even louder and harder to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed. As your stress level rises your tinnitus will get worse.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you may worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of issues.
How lack of sleep affects your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more substantial. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Increased 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 consequence.
- Poor work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will become affected. You won’t be as eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you’re not sleeping. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily activities will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only cause of anxiety. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can try to avoid stress triggers and possibly reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: You might, in some situations, have an elevated anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something stresses us. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s not so good when you’re working on a project for work. Often, it’s not so obvious what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress response a week ago. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety attack. For instance, being in a can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors could also cause anxiety:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
- Lack of nutrition
- Fatigue 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 consult your provider about treatment solutions.
How to fix your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic choices at hand. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that might work in either circumstance:
In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this strategy.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.