You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a lot to do tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is no good. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this sound 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 triggered by anxiety?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can appear.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to hinder your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically manifest. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combo of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your daily activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
- You might be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
There are instances where tinnitus can start in one ear and at some point move to both. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Whether constant or sporadic, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is quiet.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to dismiss. 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 tune out.
- Your stress level will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. It’s no wonder that you’re having trouble sleeping. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will become much more severe. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- 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 problems.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be affected over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Poor work performance: Clearly, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. You won’t be as eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. And knowing these causes is essential (mainly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: You might, in some situations, have a heightened anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so great. Sometimes, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some people.
Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
- 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 talk to your provider about treatment solutions.
How to fix your anxiety-related tinnitus?
You have two general choices to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that may work in either case:
There are a couple of possibilities for treating anxiety:
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you identify those thought patterns. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
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 can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive impact it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
Dealing with your tinnitus may help you sleep better
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you awake at night, you’ll be in danger of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should give us a call.