You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you first notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. You have a lot to do tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is bad. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. Firstly, lots of different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many people, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and severe enough to hinder your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more frequently 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 cover up the sound. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that insomnia can itself lead to more anxiety.
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few minutes and then go away. Whether continuous or sporadic, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more obvious.
- It can be hard to ignore your tinnitus and that can be very stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can become even louder and harder to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to get stressed out. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will be.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of problems.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will become much more substantial. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Here are some of the most common impacts:
- Inferior work results: Naturally, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. 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 start to impact your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- 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.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced 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.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only source of anxiety. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- 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 tiger. But it’s not so good when you’re working on a project for work. Often, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. Something that triggered 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 last year, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can happen when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Some recreational drugs
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment options.
How to deal with your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
With regards to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two general choices available. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less noticeable.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting 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. 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.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
You may 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 awake at night. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should contact us.