You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, 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. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, many different noises can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have difficulty managing them. Tinnitus is only one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that insomnia can itself lead to more anxiety.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could easily be causing your sleep problems. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Your stress level will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level increases your tinnitus will get worse.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is quiet.
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to dismiss. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. Your tinnitus can become even louder and harder to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, obviously, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle carries on. And your overall wellness can be negatively affected by this. Here are a few of the most common effects:
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you don’t sleep. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related problems.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the consequence.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily activities such as driving a little more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Poor work results: Obviously, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s important to recognize what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and possibly reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. For instance, being in a can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some people.
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. Often, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. Something that triggered a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. You may even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for example.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also cause anxiety:
- Poor nutrition
- Certain recreational drugs
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment solutions.
Dealing with anxiety-related tinnitus
When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two general choices available. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that might work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of possibilities for treating anxiety:
- Medication: In some instances, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you identify those thought patterns. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully 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:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this approach.
- 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.
Addressing your tinnitus may help you sleep better
As long as that humming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.