You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: a pulsing or maybe a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is pulsing in rhythm with your heartbeat. And regardless of 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 bad. And all of a sudden you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
Can anxiety cause tinnitus?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, lots of different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are difficult to control and severe enough to hinder your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- You might be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve acknowledged the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you experience tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Usually, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? 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 getting to sleep a bit tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
There are instances where tinnitus can start 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 moments and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- It can be difficult to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely 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 grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even harder to ignore.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is quiet.
- Your stress level will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of issues.
Health affects of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more significant. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Some of the most common effects include the following:
- Poor work performance: Clearly, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be less positive.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
- Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily activities will then be more hazardous. And it’s particularly dangerous if you run heavy machinery, for example.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly reduce your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. Sometimes, the connection between the two is not obvious. Something that caused 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: 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 cause an anxiety response for some.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.
Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Lack of nutrition
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Some recreational drugs
This list is not exhaustive. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment options.
How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
In terms of anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
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. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some instances, medication may help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
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:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you suffer from tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and minimize your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, use a white noise machine. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- 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.
Addressing your tinnitus may 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. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. Contact us so we can help.