You first notice the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is rhythmic in tune with 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 scenario sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to produce a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not as simple as that. Firstly, many different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. For many, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and strong enough to interfere with your daily life. Tinnitus is only one of several ways this can physically manifest. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Certainly!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combo of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- 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 detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
- Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your usual activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make falling asleep a bit tricky. And that insomnia can itself cause more anxiety.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then move to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Whether constant or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.
- Your stress level will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level increases your tinnitus gets worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and difficult to dismiss. 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 ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. It’s no wonder that you’re having trouble sleeping. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep affects your health
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle carries on. And your general wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will get worse if you don’t sleep. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related problems.
- Poor work performance: It should come as no shock that if you can’t get to sleep, your job performance will suffer. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be more negative.
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. This can make daily tasks like driving a little more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And knowing 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). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Medical conditions: In some situations, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to a heightened anxiety response.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with an assignment for work. Sometimes, the relationship between the two is not obvious. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress response a week ago. Even a stressor from last year can trigger an anxiety attack now.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. For example, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors may also cause anxiety:
- Lack of nutrition
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Certain recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment solutions.
How to deal with your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
You have two basic options to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to treat the anxiety or treat the tinnitus. Here’s how that might work in either circumstance:
In general, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: In some instances, medication may help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less noticeable.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you recognize 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. Here are some common treatments:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you suffer from tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you produce new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. 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.
You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
You’ll be in danger of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you awake at night. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should contact us.