You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, 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 very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this situation sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the outcome.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complex than that. Firstly, lots of different sounds can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to interfere with your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically materialize. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
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 begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you notice tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? 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 falling asleep a little tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and at some point move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few moments and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to ignore. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to ignore.
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is silent.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle carries on. And your general wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Poor 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 clearly and quickly.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to affect your long-term health and well-being. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you don’t sleep. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more hazardous. And it’s particularly dangerous if you operate heavy machinery, for instance.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. And understanding these causes is important (mainly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can take place when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some instances, have a heightened anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. Often, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for example.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors could also trigger anxiety:
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Certain recreational drugs
- Lack of nutrition
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should consult your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
How to deal with your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
You have two general choices to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be addressed. In either situation, here’s how that may work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting 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:
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- 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.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive impact it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
You may get better sleep by dealing with your tinnitus
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should give us a call.