You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you first hear the sound: a beating or maybe a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is pulsing at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a little more complex than that. Firstly, lots of different sounds can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. When people experience stress, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and strong enough to interfere with your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Usually, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other situations, it may pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most individuals sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is silent.
- 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 up all night. Your tinnitus can become even louder and harder to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will be.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s not surprising that you’re losing sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more substantial. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the consequence.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily activities will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Increased stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
- Poor work performance: Naturally, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only source of anxiety. And understanding these causes is essential (mainly because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an elevated anxiety response.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something stresses us. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the connection between the two is not very clear. Something that triggered a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack today. You may even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some people to have an anxiety attack.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors may also cause anxiety:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
This list is not exhaustive. And you should talk to your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
How to fix your anxiety-related tinnitus?
In terms of anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options available. You can either try to treat the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. In either case, here’s how that may work:
In general, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you identify those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively prevent anxiety attacks.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
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. To do that, you should give us a call.