You’re lying in bed trying 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 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. And all of a sudden you feel very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this situation 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 triggered by anxiety?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, many different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and severe enough to interfere with your daily life. Tinnitus is only one of the many ways this can physically materialize. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Certainly, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your ordinary activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself cause more anxiety.
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. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Whether continuous or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could certainly be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and hard to ignore. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to get stressed. As your stress level rises your tinnitus gets worse.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more noticeable.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you may worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, obviously, make it very difficult to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep affects your health
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you operate heavy machinery, for instance.
- Poor work results: Naturally, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be less positive.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. And understanding these causes is important (mainly because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can happen when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s less good when you’re working on a project for work. Often, 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. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Some recreational drugs
- Exhaustion 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 seek advice from your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
How to deal with your anxiety-related tinnitus?
When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two general choices at hand. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this approach.
Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better
You’ll be at risk of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you up at night. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should give us a call.