You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you begin to hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is pulsing in rhythm with your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is bad because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to produce a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. 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 sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently interfere with their life because they have trouble managing them. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your ordinary activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself lead to more anxiety.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you notice tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more obvious.
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus will get worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and hard to ignore. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even harder to ignore.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of issues.
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 effects:
- Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily activities such as driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy equipment, for instance.
- Inferior work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t 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 already present will get worse if you’re not sleeping. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
- Greater 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.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And understanding these causes is important (largely because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.
- 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 great. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the association between the two is not very clear. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can take place when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For instance, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Some recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Lack of nutrition
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
Dealing with anxiety-induced tinnitus
You have two basic choices to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of possibilities for treating anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this approach.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
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 awake at night. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should give us a call.