You’re lying in bed trying to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, right in your ear. 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 bad because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to create a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, lots of different sounds can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to hinder your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination 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 recognized the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you notice tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Usually, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make falling asleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself result in more anxiety.
There are instances where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Whether constant or sporadic, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yeah, anxiety-driven tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep issues. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to overlook. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to ignore.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to get stressed out. As your stress level increases your tinnitus gets worse.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more significant. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Here are some of the most common impacts:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Inferior work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will suffer. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy machinery, for example.
- Elevated 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.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And knowing these causes is important (mainly because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. 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. oftentimes, the relationship between the two is not apparent. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction last week. Even a stressor from last year can cause an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety attack. For instance, being in a can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some people.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors could also trigger anxiety:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Certain recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Lack of nutrition
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
In terms of anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that might work in either case:
In general, anxiety disorders are treated 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 identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent 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 may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
- 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 approach.
Addressing your tinnitus may help you sleep better
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. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should give us a call.