You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you first notice the sound: a beating or maybe a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you notice 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. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to create a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Tinnitus is typically defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complex than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a large number of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. When people experience stress, for many, tinnitus can appear.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often hinder their life because they have difficulty managing them. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Absolutely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Usually, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger 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 come 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 occurrence of tinnitus (whether due 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 stick around 24/7–all day every day. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Here are several examples of how:
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to get stressed. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more obvious.
- It can be challenging to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. Your tinnitus can get even louder and more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you might fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. It’s not surprising that you’re having trouble sleeping. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more severe. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
- Poor work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
- Increased stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have 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 like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy machinery, for instance.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s important to recognize what these causes are so you can try to avoid stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can occur when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some people.
- Medical conditions: In some situations, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an elevated anxiety response.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something stresses us. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. Sometimes, the relationship between the two isn’t very clear. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress response last week. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Lack of nutrition
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Some recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment solutions.
How to deal with your anxiety-related tinnitus?
In terms of anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options available. You can either try to address the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that might work in either case:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you recognize those thought patterns. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less noticeable.
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 recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive impact it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- 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 could help you sleep better
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. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should contact us.