You first notice the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. And suddenly you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
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 wide variety of shapes, from pulsation to throbbing to ringing and so on. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many people, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is a condition in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and strong enough to hinder your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combo of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- You might be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
- Most people tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your daily activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:
- It can be challenging to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even harder to ignore.
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can be much more noticeable when everything is quiet.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus will get worse.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is near. This can, naturally, make it very hard to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more significant. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and well-being. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Inferior work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. You won’t be as eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- 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 result.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. 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
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause of anxiety. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: In some situations, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an elevated anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety attack. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Often, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. Something that caused a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack today. Even a stressor from last year can cause an anxiety attack now.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors may also cause anxiety:
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Certain recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment options.
Treating anxiety-related tinnitus
With regards to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that might work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Medication: Medications may be used, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you recognize those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent anxiety attacks.
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:
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, use a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this strategy.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and minimize your tinnitus symptoms.
Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better
You’ll be in danger of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you awake at night. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.