You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: a beating or maybe 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. It keeps you awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this seem 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 result.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. When people experience stress, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
For people who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often hinder their life because they have difficulty managing them. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combo of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- You might be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Certainly, but it’s also possible 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 more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then change to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. 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:
- 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 sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus gets worse.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s nighttime, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can be much more noticeable when everything is quiet.
When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will become much more severe. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily activities like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you operate heavy machinery, for example.
- Inferior work results: Naturally, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. You won’t be as eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- Increased stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause of anxiety. And knowing these causes is important (mostly 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:
- Medical conditions: You might, in some cases, have an elevated anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can happen when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Lack of nutrition
This list is not complete. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment options.
How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic options 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 options for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you identify those thought patterns. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you cope 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. Here are some common treatments:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. 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 strategy.
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 up at night. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should contact us.