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 pulsing at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is not good because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the outcome.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Firstly, lots of different sounds can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. For many, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of fear, 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, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you notice tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Most people tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Certainly, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make getting to sleep a bit tricky. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and at some point move to both. There are some instances where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
So, yes, anxiety-driven tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep troubles. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
- The level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus gets worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to ignore. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even harder to tune out.
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. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of issues.
Health affects of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more substantial. And this can really have a negative impact on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse 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. This can make daily activities like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s especially dangerous if you run heavy equipment, for example.
- Poor work results: Naturally, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be less positive.
- 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 result.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only cause of anxiety. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can stay away from 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: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Sometimes, it’s not so obvious what the relationship between the two is. Something that caused a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction 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 bring on an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.
- Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have a heightened anxiety response due to a medical condition.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Poor nutrition
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
This list is not exhaustive. And you should talk to your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-related tinnitus
When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic choices at hand. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either case, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. 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 attempting to sleep, use a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this approach.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive impact it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
Dealing with your tinnitus may help you sleep better
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be in danger of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Contact us so we can help.