You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is beating in rhythm with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
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. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed, 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 interfere with their life because they have difficulty managing them. Tinnitus is just one of several 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 specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your daily activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself lead to more anxiety.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first sign of a more serious anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
There are situations 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 situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s nighttime, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is quiet.
- It can be difficult to disregard 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 harder to ignore.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s not surprising that you’re having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of issues.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more profound as this vicious cycle continues. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Elevated stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and well-being. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Poor work performance: Naturally, 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 more negative.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily activities will then be more dangerous. And it’s especially hazardous if you run heavy machinery, for instance.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can try to avoid stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to a heightened anxiety response.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the association between the two is not apparent. Something that triggered a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack today. 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 attack. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Lack of nutrition
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should talk to your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-related tinnitus
You have two basic choices to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be addressed. In either situation, here’s how that may work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you awake 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 give us a call.