You’re lying in bed trying to sleep when you first notice the sound: a beating or maybe a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is bad because you need your sleep and you have 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 related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a little more complex than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a large number of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often hinder their life because they have difficulty managing them. Tinnitus is only one of the many ways this can physically materialize. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Absolutely!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combo of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
- Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your daily activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that insomnia can itself lead to more anxiety.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then change to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Whether constant or sporadic, this combination 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 a few examples of how:
- It can be hard to ignore your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to tune out.
- the level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level rises your tinnitus will get worse.
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. It’s nighttime, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is silent.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, obviously, make it very hard to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort 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 impact on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common effects:
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be affected over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Inferior work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- Increased 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 problems.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only source of anxiety. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Often, it’s not so clear what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction last week. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an increased 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 around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Some recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
Dealing with anxiety-related tinnitus
You have two basic choices to treat anxiety-related tinnitus. You can either try to treat the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that may work:
In general, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications may be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic method will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
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:
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, use a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
Addressing your tinnitus may help you sleep better
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you awake 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 contact us.