You first hear the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is not good because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this situation sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many people, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to hinder your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Usually, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And that sleeplessness can itself lead to more anxiety.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Whether constant or sporadic, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could easily be causing your sleep troubles. Some examples of how are as follows:
- It can be difficult to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to get stressed out. As your stress level rises your tinnitus gets worse.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, obviously, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of problems.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more severe. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Reduced 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 especially dangerous if you operate heavy equipment, for instance.
- Poor work performance: Naturally, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Elevated 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 be the outcome.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. And recognizing these causes is important (mostly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But it’s not so good when you’re working on a project for work. Sometimes, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for instance.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. Being in a crowded place, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety attack.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Certain recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
How to deal with your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two basic choices to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to treat the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
In general, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
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 strategies can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease 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: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
You may get better sleep by dealing with your tinnitus
As long as that humming 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 solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should give us a call.