You first hear the sound when you’re lying in bed attempting to sleep: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, right in your ear. 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 up, which is not good because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, many different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. For many people, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to interfere with your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make falling asleep a little tricky. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep issues. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus gets worse.
- It can be challenging to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can get even louder and more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is quiet.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. It’s not surprising that you’re having trouble sleeping. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle carries on. And your general wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Some of the most common impacts include the following:
- Increased 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 symptoms.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more dangerous. And it’s especially dangerous if you operate heavy machinery, for example.
- Inferior work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only cause of anxiety. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something stresses us. 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 relationship between the two isn’t obvious. Something that caused a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack today. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some instances, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded place, for instance, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Lack of nutrition
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This list is not complete. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment options.
Dealing with anxiety-induced tinnitus
When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. You can either try to treat the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: Medications may be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
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:
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- 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 strategies can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
Dealing with your tinnitus could help you sleep better
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you up 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. Give us a call so we can help.