You first notice the sound when you’re in bed attempting to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is pulsing at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And regardless of 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 bad. And suddenly you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Tinnitus is typically defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Firstly, lots of different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
For people who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have difficulty managing them. This can manifest in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
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 acknowledged the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you experience tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
- Most people 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.
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 may pulsate for a few minutes and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yeah, anxiety-driven tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep troubles. Here are a few examples of how:
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to overlook. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to ignore.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- Most people sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can become much more noticeable.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is near. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of problems.
How lack of sleep affects your health
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Some of the most common effects include the following:
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And it’s especially hazardous if you operate heavy equipment, for example.
- Inferior work performance: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will become affected. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will worsen if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause of anxiety. It’s important to recognize what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly reduce your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety episode. For example, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some cases, have a heightened anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- 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 not so good when you’re working on a project for work. Sometimes, the association between the two isn’t obvious. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Some recreational drugs
- Lack of nutrition
This list is not complete. And you should consult your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-related tinnitus
You have two basic choices to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Medication: Medications may be used, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic method will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better avoid 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:
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this approach.
- 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): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive impact it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
You may get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
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 solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should give us a call.