You first hear the sound when you’re in bed trying to sleep: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is pulsing in rhythm with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is bad. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this situation sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can anxiety cause tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a wide variety of forms, from pulsation to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people experience stress, for many, tinnitus can appear.
An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and severe enough to hinder your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combo of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Normally, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make falling asleep a little tricky. And that sleeplessness can itself result in more anxiety.
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other situations, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.
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 level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level rises your tinnitus gets worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to overlook. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to tune out.
- Most people 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.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is near. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
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 your general wellness can be negatively affected by this. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more hazardous. And it’s particularly dangerous if you operate heavy equipment, for instance.
- Inferior work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and well-being. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the consequence.
- Increased stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only source of anxiety. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so great. Often, it’s not so obvious what the relationship between the two is. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can occur 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 situations, have a heightened anxiety response because of a medical condition.
Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Lack of nutrition
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Some recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. 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-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that might work in either case:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you recognize those thought patterns. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively avoid 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: When you’re trying to sleep, use a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this approach.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
You could get better sleep by dealing with 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. Contact us so we can help.