You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you first hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is beating in rhythm with your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is not good because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this situation sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a little more complicated than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For individuals who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have difficulty controlling them. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Tinnitus can often be the first sign of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself cause more anxiety.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and at some point move to both. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few moments and then disappear. Whether constant or intermittent, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yeah, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep problems. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most individuals sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can be much more obvious.
- It can be difficult to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to ignore.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to get stressed. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will be.
When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is near. This can, obviously, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of issues.
Health affects of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will become much more severe. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you don’t sleep. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
- Inferior work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job performance will suffer. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily activities like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s especially hazardous if you operate heavy machinery, for example.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And knowing these causes is essential (largely because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the relationship between the two isn’t very clear. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction last week. You may even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors might also cause anxiety:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Lack of nutrition
This list is not exhaustive. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment possibilities.
How to deal with your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
You have two basic choices to manage anxiety-related tinnitus. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of options for treating anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you recognize those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively prevent anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less noticeable.
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 might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this strategy.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease your tinnitus symptoms.
You could get better sleep by addressing 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 option. To do that, you should give us a call.