You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: a pulsing or perhaps a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, right in your ear. 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. And suddenly you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects 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 bit more complex than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsation to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to interfere with your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
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 caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
- Normally, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Certainly, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your ordinary activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Here are several examples of how:
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level increases your tinnitus will get worse.
- Most individuals sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
- It can be difficult to ignore 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 up all night. Your tinnitus can become even louder and harder to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s not surprising that you’re having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of issues.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
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 affected by this. Here are some of the most common impacts:
- Increased stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and wellness. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Poor work performance: Naturally, 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.
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only cause of anxiety. And recognizing these causes is essential (mostly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. Often, it’s not so clear what the link between the two is. Something that caused a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack today. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an increased anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can happen when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Certain recreational drugs
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should talk to your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
How to treat your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
You have two basic choices to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of options for treating anxiety:
- Medication: Medications may be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively prevent anxiety attacks.
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: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might 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 minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
- 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 a method that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better
As long as that humming 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 solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Contact us so we can help.