You first notice the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is pulsing at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is bad because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Tinnitus is typically defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, lots of different sounds 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, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and severe enough to hinder your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Sure, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your ordinary activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself result in more anxiety.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first sign of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve acknowledged the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you experience 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. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep issues. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to get stressed. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn off everything. 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. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even more difficult to tune out.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you may worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, naturally, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of problems.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Some of the most common effects include the following:
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and well-being. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Increased stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Inferior work results: Clearly, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And recognizing these causes is essential (mostly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But it’s not so good when you’re working on an assignment for work. Often, it’s not so obvious what the relationship between the two is. Something that triggered a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for example.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some instances, have an increased anxiety response due to a medical condition.
Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Lack of nutrition
This list is not complete. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment possibilities.
How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
With regards to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. You can either try to treat the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that might work in either case:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent 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:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this approach.
You could get better sleep by dealing with your tinnitus
As long as that humming 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 solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.