You first hear the sound when you’re in bed attempting to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, 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 suddenly you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely related. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can anxiety cause tinnitus?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsation to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many people, tinnitus can happen 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 trouble managing them. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically materialize. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Certainly, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself result in more anxiety.
- You might be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you experience tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
There are instances where tinnitus can start in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most people sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. It’s nighttime, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is silent.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. As your stress level rises your tinnitus gets worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and hard to dismiss. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to ignore.
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. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
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 some of the most common impacts:
- Elevated stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
- Poor work performance: Obviously, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and well-being. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And it’s particularly dangerous if you run heavy machinery, for instance.
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 stay away from stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s not so good when you’re working on a project for work. Often, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. Something that triggered a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from last year can cause an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Lack of nutrition
- Certain recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment solutions.
Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus
You have two general choices to manage anxiety-related tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications may be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively avoid anxiety attacks.
There are a variety of ways to treat tinnitus and this is especially true if symptoms manifest primarily at night. Here are some common treatments:
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this strategy.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
You could get better sleep by dealing with your tinnitus
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 plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should give us a call.