You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you first hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad 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 seem familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to create a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. 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 buzzing 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 out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and severe enough to interfere with your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve acknowledged the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Most individuals 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 everyday activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself result in more anxiety.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Whether constant or intermittent, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
So, yeah, anxiety-driven tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep issues. Here are several examples of how:
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to get stressed. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- Most individuals sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is quiet.
- It can be challenging to disregard your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can get even louder and harder to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle continues. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Poor work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. You won’t be as eager or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will get worse if you don’t sleep. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily activities will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can try to avoid stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. Often, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress response a week ago. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can occur when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an elevated anxiety response.
Other factors: Less frequently, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Poor nutrition
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This list is not exhaustive. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment options.
How to fix your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two general choices to manage anxiety-related tinnitus. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be addressed. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Medication: Medications may be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you recognize those thought patterns. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
There are a variety of ways to treat tinnitus and this is especially true if symptoms manifest primarily at night. Here are some common treatments:
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
Dealing with your tinnitus may help you sleep better
As long as that humming 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. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.