You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you first hear the sound: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is pulsing at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. 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. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a little more complicated than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a wide variety of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
For individuals 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 cause tinnitus? Certainly!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
- Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might 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 that insomnia can itself lead to more anxiety.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few moments and then go away. 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 problems. 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 be much more obvious when everything is silent.
- It can be difficult to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to ignore.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to get stressed out. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, obviously, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of problems.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more profound as this vicious cycle carries on. And your overall wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Here are a few of the most common effects:
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily tasks like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy equipment, for example.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and well-being. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Poor work results: Naturally, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- 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. And understanding these causes is important (mostly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: You may, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response due to a medical condition.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety attack. For example, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, it’s not so clear what the link between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress response last week. Even a stressor from last year can trigger an anxiety attack now.
Other factors: Less frequently, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Some recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
This list is not exhaustive. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment solutions.
Treating anxiety-induced 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 circumstance:
In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
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:
- 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.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
You could 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. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible solution. Contact us so we can help.