You first notice the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
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 forms, from pulsation to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For individuals who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently interfere with their life because they have trouble managing them. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Normally, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused 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 cover up the sound. This can make falling asleep a little tricky. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
There are instances where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Whether continuous or intermittent, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep affected 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 get stressed. As your stress level increases your tinnitus gets worse.
- It can be challenging 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 up all night. Your tinnitus can get even louder and harder to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s nighttime, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is quiet.
When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is near. This can, obviously, make it very difficult to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you’re not sleeping. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can occur.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Poor work performance: Naturally, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And understanding these causes is essential (mainly because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some people.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something causes us stress. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. Often, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. Something that caused a stress response last week 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 increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.
Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Some recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
How to fix your anxiety-related tinnitus?
In terms of anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of options for treating anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively prevent anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some instances, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
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: When you’re attempting to sleep, use a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this strategy.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
As long as that humming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should contact us.