You first hear the sound when you’re in bed trying to sleep: a pulsing or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is beating in rhythm with your heartbeat. And regardless of 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’ve got a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety could 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 generally 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 shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can appear.
For individuals who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently interfere with their life because they have trouble controlling them. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically materialize. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- 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 general anxiety levels.
- Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Certainly, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your usual activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make falling asleep a little tricky. And that sleeplessness can itself result in more anxiety.
There are instances where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and at some point move to both. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep problems. Here are a few examples of how:
- It can be challenging to ignore your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. It’s nighttime, so you turn everything off. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more noticeable.
- The level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is near. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of problems.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle carries on. And your overall wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Elevated stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related problems.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and well-being. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Inferior work performance: Clearly, 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.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only cause of anxiety. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- 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 great. But it’s not so good when you’re dealing with an assignment for work. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress response last week. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have a heightened anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety attack. For instance, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
- Some recreational drugs
- Poor nutrition
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This list is not exhaustive. And you should consult your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
How to treat your anxiety-related tinnitus?
When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic choices at hand. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications may be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you recognize those thought patterns. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively avoid anxiety attacks.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Some of the most common treatments include:
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have 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 might 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 give us a call.