You first hear the sound when you’re in bed trying to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is pulsing at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this situation sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s not that simple. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people get stressed out, for many people, tinnitus can appear.
For individuals who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often hinder their life because they have trouble controlling them. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- 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.
- Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Sure, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself cause more anxiety.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then change to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- Most people sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. It’s nighttime, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
- Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level rises your tinnitus will get worse.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to overlook. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even more difficult to tune out.
When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, naturally, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of issues.
How lack of sleep affects your health
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health impacts of insomnia will grow much more severe. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will worsen if you’re not sleeping. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can occur.
- Greater 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.
- Poor work results: Naturally, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. You won’t be as eager or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks such as 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 sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. And recognizing these causes is essential (largely because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Medical conditions: You may, in some instances, have a heightened anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety episode. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
- 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 tiger. But it’s not so good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Often, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. Something that triggered a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for instance.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors may also trigger anxiety:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
This list is not complete. And you should talk to your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.
Dealing with anxiety-induced tinnitus
When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that might work in either circumstance:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic method will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you cope 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. Some of the most common treatments include:
- 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.
- 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.
Addressing your tinnitus may help you sleep better
You’ll be in danger of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you up at night. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible solution. To do that, you should contact us.