You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And no matter 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 have a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a little more complex than that. Firstly, many different noises can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many people, tinnitus can happen when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For individuals who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently interfere with their life because they have trouble controlling them. This can manifest in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more frequently at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make falling asleep a bit tricky. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
There are instances where tinnitus can start in one ear and eventually move to both. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Here are several examples of how:
- It can be challenging to ignore your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can get even louder and more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. As your stress level rises your tinnitus gets worse.
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can become much more obvious.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. It’s not surprising that you’re having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of problems.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more profound as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Some of the most common effects include the following:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and well-being. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you don’t sleep. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily activities will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Poor work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can try to avoid stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an elevated anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can occur when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety attack.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the relationship between the two is not obvious. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction last week. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also cause anxiety:
- Lack of nutrition
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should talk to your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
How to deal with your anxiety-related tinnitus?
With regards to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two general choices at hand. You can either try to treat the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that may work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
- Medication: Medications may be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, use a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and minimize your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
You may get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
As long as that humming or whooshing is keeping you awake at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. Contact us so we can help.