You first notice the sound when you’re 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. It keeps you awake, which is bad because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.
Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of shapes, from pulsation to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and severe enough to interfere with your daily life. Tinnitus is only one of the many ways this can physically manifest. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Definitely!
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:
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Most people tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered 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 hide the sound. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself cause more anxiety.
There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and eventually move to both. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. In other situations, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Whether constant or sporadic, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult 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 grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to ignore.
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level rises your tinnitus will get worse.
- Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can be much more obvious.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, obviously, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of issues.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you’re not sleeping. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily activities will then be more hazardous. And it’s especially dangerous if you operate heavy machinery, for instance.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and wellness. Increased risk 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 sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause of anxiety. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- 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 attack can take place when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety response.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But it’s not so good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Sometimes, the relationship between the two isn’t obvious. Something that triggered 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:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Some recreational drugs
- Poor nutrition
This list is not complete. And if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment solutions.
How to fix your 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 case, here’s how that might work:
In general, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you identify those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively avoid anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some instances, medication may 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:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
You could get better sleep by dealing with your tinnitus
You’ll be at risk 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.