You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you first hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this situation sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. 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 anxiety lead to tinnitus?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, many different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can manifest.
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. This can manifest in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Absolutely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first sign of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
- Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Sure, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself lead to more anxiety.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-driven tinnitus could easily be contributing to your sleep issues. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s nighttime, so you turn everything off. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more obvious.
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to dismiss. 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 increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even harder to ignore.
- The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will be.
When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s no wonder that you’re having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more substantial. And your general wellness can be negatively affected by this. Here are some of the most common impacts:
- Poor work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will become affected. You won’t be as eager or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- Increased stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. This can make daily tasks like driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Greater 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 an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only source of anxiety. And knowing these causes is essential (largely because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: You might, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. Something that triggered a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can take place when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors might also trigger anxiety:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Lack of nutrition
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should talk to your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus
When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic options available. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that may work in either case:
There are a couple of options for treating anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you recognize those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
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 might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
You could get better sleep by dealing with 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 plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.