You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you first notice the sound: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is rhythmic in tune 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 all of a sudden you feel very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this situation sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. And you can see 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 anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a little more complex than that. Firstly, lots of different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many people, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and intense enough to interfere with your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically manifest. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more frequently 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 day-to-day activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
- Tinnitus can often be the first indication of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-driven tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep troubles. Some examples of how are as follows:
- It can be difficult to disregard your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s nighttime, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to get stressed. 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. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of problems.
Health affects of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health impacts of insomnia will grow much more significant. And your general wellness can be negatively affected by this. Some of the most common effects include the following:
- 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 an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Increased 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 be the outcome.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Poor 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 more negative.
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 try to avoid stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will naturally 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 great. Sometimes, the connection between the two is not apparent. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety episode. For example, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.
- Medical conditions: In some situations, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to a heightened anxiety response.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors could also cause anxiety:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Poor nutrition
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This list is not exhaustive. And you should talk to your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
How to deal with your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two basic options to treat anxiety-related tinnitus. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either case, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
- 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 avoid anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
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: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you suffer from tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
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. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Contact us so we can help.