You first hear the sound when you’re lying in bed attempting to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.
Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complex than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsation to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many people, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and severe enough to hinder your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically materialize. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you experience tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
- Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make falling asleep a bit tricky. And that sleeplessness 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 continuous day and night. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-driven tinnitus could easily be causing your sleep problems. Here are several examples of how:
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s nighttime, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is silent.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. As your stress level rises your tinnitus gets worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to overlook. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult 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 near. This can, obviously, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of problems.
Health affects of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will grow much more significant. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Some of the most common effects include the following:
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily activities will then be more hazardous. And it’s especially dangerous if you operate heavy equipment, for instance.
- Elevated stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related problems.
- Inferior work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t get to sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. And knowing these causes is essential (largely because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- 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 working on a project for work. oftentimes, the connection between the two is not apparent. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress response a week ago. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can take place when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded place, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some situations, have a heightened anxiety response due to a medical condition.
Other factors: Less frequently, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
- Some recreational drugs
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This list is not exhaustive. And you should talk to your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
How to deal with your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two basic choices to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that might work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
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 might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
You may get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
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 solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Contact us so we can help.