You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a lot to do tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is no good. And all of a sudden you feel very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsation to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
For individuals who cope with 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 several ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your daily 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 acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few moments and then disappear. Whether constant or sporadic, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-driven tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep issues. Here are a few examples of how:
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is silent.
- It can be hard to ignore 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 ignore.
- The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level rises your tinnitus will get worse.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will become much more severe. And your overall wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Some of the most common impacts include the following:
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will get worse if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can occur.
- Poor work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can take place when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, it’s not so clear what the link between the two is. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some cases, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Some recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should consult your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus
In terms of anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two general choices at hand. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either case, here’s how that may work:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
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 could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
You may get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
As long as that thrumming 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. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should contact us.