You’re lying down 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 regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. You have a lot to do tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a little more complicated than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. When people get stressed out, for many people, tinnitus can appear.
An anxiety disorder is a condition in which feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to hinder your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself result in more anxiety.
- Tinnitus can often be the first indication of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and at some point move to both. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other situations, it may pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can have negative health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is silent.
- It can be hard to disregard 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 awake all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to tune out.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of issues.
How lack of sleep affects your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will grow much more severe. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Some of the most common impacts include the following:
- Elevated stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and well-being. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And it’s especially dangerous if you operate heavy machinery, for example.
- Poor work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. You won’t be as eager or be able to think clearly and quickly.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. 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:
- Medical conditions: You might, in some instances, have a heightened anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety episode. For example, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so great. oftentimes, the connection between the two is not very clear. Something that triggered a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Lack of nutrition
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Some recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should talk to your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
How to fix your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
You have two general options to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. In either case, here’s how that might work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic method will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent anxiety attacks.
- Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
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: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this strategy.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better
As long as that humming or whooshing is keeping you awake at night, you’ll be in danger of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should contact us.