You first hear the sound when you’re in bed attempting to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is beating in rhythm with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, 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 sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this seem familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. 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 lead to tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. Firstly, many different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people experience stress, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have trouble controlling them. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? 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:
- Tinnitus can often be the first sign of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you notice tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Usually, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. 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 falling asleep a bit tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
There are situations 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. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can be much more obvious.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus gets worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to dismiss. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of problems.
How lack of sleep affects your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more significant. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Some of the most common effects include the following:
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and well-being. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Elevated stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
- Poor work results: Clearly, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
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 prevent anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can take place when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded environment, for example, can cause some people to have an anxiety attack.
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But it’s less good when you’re working on an assignment for work. Often, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction last week. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for example.
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an increased anxiety response.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Some recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Lack of nutrition
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should consult your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus
In terms of anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic options available. You can either try to treat the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either case:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you identify 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. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone 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 create new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
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 at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible solution. Contact us so we can help.