You first notice the sound when you’re lying in bed attempting to sleep: a beating or maybe a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is pulsing in rhythm with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, 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 very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people get stressed out, for many people, tinnitus can appear.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have difficulty controlling them. This can manifest in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Normally, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Certainly, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your usual activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that insomnia can itself lead to more anxiety.
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative 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:
- It can be hard to disregard your tinnitus and that can be really 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 harder to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more significant. And your general wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Poor work performance: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will get worse if you don’t sleep. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. This can make daily activities like driving a little more hazardous. And it’s especially hazardous if you run heavy machinery, for instance.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and well-being. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the consequence.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only source of anxiety. And recognizing these causes is essential (mostly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety attack. For instance, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some situations, have an increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. Something that triggered a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for example.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Some recreational drugs
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
This list is not exhaustive. And you should talk to your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-related tinnitus
You have two general choices to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. In either case, here’s how that may work:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other situations, 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. 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 attempting to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
Dealing with 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 awake at night. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should contact us.