You’re lying in bed trying to sleep when you first hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to produce a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be triggered 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 sound you hear can take a wide variety of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many people, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For individuals who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have trouble controlling them. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Certainly, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then move to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Whether continuous or sporadic, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s nighttime, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is quiet.
- Your stress level will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level rises your tinnitus will get worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to ignore. 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 ignore.
When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. 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 substantial. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Here are some of the most common impacts:
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will worsen if you don’t sleep. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Poor work performance: It should come as no shock that if you can’t get to sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily activities like driving a little more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: You might, in some situations, have an increased anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded environment, for example, can cause some people to have an anxiety attack.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s not so good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Sometimes, the connection between the two isn’t very clear. Something that triggered a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors may also cause anxiety:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Some recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment possibilities.
How to deal with your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
With regards to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two general options at hand. You can either try to address the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you identify those thought patterns. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
There are a variety of ways to treat tinnitus and this is especially true if symptoms manifest primarily at night. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may 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 approach.
Addressing your tinnitus may 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 up at night. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should give us a call.