You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: 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 up, 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 affects 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 bit more complicated than that. Firstly, many different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. For many people, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
For individuals who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have difficulty managing them. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Certainly!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more often 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 covered up the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a bit tricky. And that sleeplessness can itself cause more anxiety.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more serious anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve made this connection, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then go away. 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. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Your stress level will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus will get worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to overlook. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to tune out.
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more noticeable.
When your tinnitus is caused by 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 results in all kinds of issues.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle continues. And your general wellness can be negatively affected by this. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will worsen if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily activities will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Inferior work performance: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will become affected. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only cause of anxiety. It’s important to recognize what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an elevated anxiety response.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something stresses us. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with a project 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 last year can cause an anxiety attack now.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety episode. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors could also cause anxiety:
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Certain recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two general options to treat anxiety-related tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that might work in either case:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you identify those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
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:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, use a white noise machine. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- 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 could help you sleep better
As long as that thrumming 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. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.