You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you first hear the sound: a pulsing or maybe a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.
Can anxiety cause tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complex than that. Firstly, lots of different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
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 hinder your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself result in more anxiety.
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other situations, it may pulsate for a few moments and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
So, yeah, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep troubles. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level increases your tinnitus gets worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to ignore. 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 more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, naturally, make it very hard to sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle carries on. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness 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 already present will get worse if you don’t sleep. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily activities such as driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Poor work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. It’s important to recognize what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious what the relationship between the two is. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. Even a stressor from last year can cause an anxiety attack now.
- 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 cause an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded place, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.
Other factors: Less frequently, anxiety disorders could be caused by some of the following factors:
- Poor nutrition
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Certain recreational drugs
This list is not exhaustive. And you should seek advice from your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two general choices available. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that may work in either case:
In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
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): 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.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this approach.
Addressing your tinnitus may help you sleep better
As long as that thrumming 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. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible option. Contact us so we can help.