You first notice the sound when you’re in bed trying to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, 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. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. When people get stressed out, for many people, tinnitus can appear.
An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are difficult to control and severe enough to hinder your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first sign of a more serious anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Certainly, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself result in more anxiety.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and at some point move to both. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can have negative health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can be much more obvious.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to overlook. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can get even louder and more difficult to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s not surprising that you’re losing sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more profound as this vicious cycle carries on. And your general wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Inferior work performance: Naturally, your job performance will suffer 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.
- Higher 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.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you don’t sleep. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related problems.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. Often, it’s not so obvious what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction last week. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can happen when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an increased anxiety response.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Some recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Lack of nutrition
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment options.
How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two basic choices to manage anxiety-related tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either case:
In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
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:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive effect it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This could help mask 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.