You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you begin to hear the sound: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as 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 have a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not as simple as that. Firstly, lots of different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. For many, tinnitus can occur 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 severe enough to hinder your daily life. Tinnitus is only one of several ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combination 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 frequently at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself cause more anxiety.
- You might be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you experience tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
There are instances where tinnitus can start in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can have negative health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are several examples of how:
- The level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level rises your tinnitus will get worse.
- Most individuals sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
- It can be hard to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. 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 more difficult to ignore.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, understandably, 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
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Poor work results: Obviously, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
- Increased stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more hazardous. And it’s especially hazardous if you run heavy machinery, for instance.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly reduce your tinnitus while you’re at it. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can occur when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
- 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 clear what the link between the two is. Something that triggered a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to a heightened anxiety response.
Other factors: Less frequently, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Lack of nutrition
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment options.
How to fix your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two general options to manage anxiety-related tinnitus. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that might work in either case:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications may be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you recognize those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively prevent anxiety attacks.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:
- 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.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you produce 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 dealing with 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 solution. Give us a call so we can help.