You first hear the sound when you’re lying in bed attempting to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is beating in rhythm with 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 bad. And suddenly you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to produce a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can anxiety cause tinnitus?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsation to throbbing to ringing and so on. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. For many, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is a condition in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and severe enough to interfere with your daily life. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your usual 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 result in more anxiety.
- Tinnitus can often be the first sign of a more serious anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
There are instances where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few minutes and then go away. Whether constant or sporadic, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Here are several examples of how:
- The level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level increases your tinnitus gets worse.
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn off everything. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.
- It can be difficult to disregard your tinnitus and that can be very stressful. 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 tune out.
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 having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of issues.
How lack of sleep affects your health
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health impacts of insomnia will grow much more substantial. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Inferior work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job performance will become affected. You won’t be as eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. This can make daily activities such as driving a little more dangerous. And it’s especially dangerous if you run heavy equipment, for example.
- Increased stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and well-being. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the relationship between the two is not obvious. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction last week. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to a heightened anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. For instance, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Lack of nutrition
- Certain recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment possibilities.
How to deal with your anxiety-related tinnitus?
You have two general choices to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. 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 possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this approach.
Dealing with your tinnitus could help you sleep better
As long as that humming or whooshing is keeping you up 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. To do that, you should give us a call.