You first notice the sound when you’re in bed attempting to sleep: a beating or maybe a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is beating in rhythm with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is not good 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? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the outcome.
Can anxiety cause tinnitus?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a little more complex than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a wide variety of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have trouble controlling them. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Absolutely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you notice tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
- Most people tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself cause more anxiety.
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 cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Whether constant or sporadic, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yeah, anxiety-driven tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep issues. Here are a few examples of how:
- Most individuals sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is silent.
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to overlook. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. Your tinnitus can get even louder and more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. It’s not surprising that you’re losing sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more substantial. And your general wellness can be negatively affected by this. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Inferior work results: Obviously, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. You won’t be as eager or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily activities will then be more hazardous. And it’s especially hazardous if you operate heavy equipment, for instance.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and wellness. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you’re not sleeping. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And understanding these causes is essential (largely because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to a heightened anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety episode. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But it’s less good when you’re working on an assignment for work. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious what the link 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 trigger an anxiety attack now.
Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
Dealing with anxiety-induced tinnitus
In terms of anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either situation, here’s how that may work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications may be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Some of the most common treatments include:
- 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.
- 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 suffer from tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
Dealing with your tinnitus could help you sleep better
You’ll be in danger of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you up at night. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Contact us so we can help.