You first hear the sound when you’re in bed attempting to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a lot to do tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the outcome.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Tinnitus is typically defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a wide variety of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. When people experience stress, for many, tinnitus can appear.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to hinder your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Absolutely!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your ordinary activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then change to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can have negative health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is silent.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to overlook. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
- The level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is near. It’s not surprising that you’re having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of problems.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more substantial. And this can really have a negative impact on your wellness. Here are some of the most common impacts:
- Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly dangerous if you run heavy machinery, for example.
- Poor work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you don’t sleep. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related problems.
- 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.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s important to recognize what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and possibly reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have a heightened 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 around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some people.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Sometimes, the connection between the two is not obvious. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Lack of nutrition
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
This list is not exhaustive. And you should consult your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
How to treat your anxiety-related tinnitus?
With regards to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic choices at hand. You can either try to treat the anxiety or address the tinnitus. 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 worsen your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you identify those thought patterns. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some instances, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
There are a variety of ways to treat tinnitus and this is especially true if symptoms manifest primarily at night. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you suffer from tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and minimize your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this approach.
Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be in danger of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. Give us a call so we can help.