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 rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is not good 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 scenario sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsation to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many people, 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 where feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and severe enough to interfere with your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Usually, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Certainly, but it’s also feasible 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.
- Tinnitus can often be the first sign of a more serious anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
There are instances where tinnitus can start in one ear and at some point move to both. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then go away. 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 absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:
- It can be difficult to disregard your tinnitus and that can be very stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to ignore.
- The level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can be much more obvious.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is near. This can, obviously, make it very hard to sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep affects your health
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will become much more significant. And your overall wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Some of the most common impacts include the following:
- Elevated stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can occur.
- Inferior work performance: Obviously, your job performance will diminish 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.
- 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 especially hazardous if you operate heavy equipment, for instance.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin 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. And recognizing these causes is essential (mostly because they will help you prevent 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:
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to a heightened anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some people.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something stresses us. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. 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 tomorrow. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Poor nutrition
- Certain recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
Dealing with anxiety-related tinnitus
With regards to anxiety-induced 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 worsen your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: Medications may be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
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:
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive impact it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. 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. Contact us so we can help.