You first hear the sound when you’re in bed trying to sleep: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. And you can see 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 anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not as simple as that. Firstly, lots of different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. 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.
For individuals who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have difficulty controlling them. This can manifest in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- You might be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more frequently at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Certainly, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and at some point move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could easily be contributing to your sleep problems. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn everything off. 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 sleeping. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus gets worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult 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 increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to tune out.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is near. This can, naturally, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more significant. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Poor work results: Obviously, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. You won’t be as eager or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- 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 outcome.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you don’t sleep. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. 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
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause of anxiety. And understanding these causes is essential (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 common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can take place when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For instance, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. If you’re 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. oftentimes, the association between the two is not obvious. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress response last week. Even a stressor from last year can trigger an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to a heightened anxiety response.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors may also trigger anxiety:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
This list is not exhaustive. And you should consult your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-related tinnitus
With regards to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. You can either try to address the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less noticeable.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you identify those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
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:
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
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. Give us a call so we can help.