You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: a pulsing or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is beating in rhythm with your heartbeat. And regardless of 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 no good. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this situation 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 outcome.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, lots of different noises can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. For many people, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
For individuals who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have difficulty managing them. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Most individuals tend to notice 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 usual activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then change to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other cases, 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 affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- It can be challenging to ignore your tinnitus and that can be very stressful. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to ignore.
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s nighttime, so you turn off everything. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can be much more obvious.
- the level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level increases your tinnitus gets worse.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, obviously, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of problems.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle continues. And this can really have a negative impact on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Poor work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job performance will become affected. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will worsen if you’re not sleeping. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. And recognizing these causes is essential (mostly because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you decrease 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 bring on an anxiety attack. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s not so good when you’re dealing with an assignment for work. Sometimes, the connection between the two isn’t obvious. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction last week. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for instance.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Poor nutrition
- Certain recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should consult your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
How to deal with your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two basic choices to treat anxiety-related tinnitus. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that may work in either case:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some instances, medication may help you cope 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. Here are some common treatments:
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
- 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): When you have tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and minimize your tinnitus symptoms.
You could 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. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should give us a call.