You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you first hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is beating in rhythm with 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 have a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the actual noise 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 isn’t really there. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction where feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name suggests) 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 tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Absolutely!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
This combination of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you experience tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
- Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more frequently at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are a few examples of how:
- It can be difficult to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to tune out.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
- Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can be much more noticeable when everything is quiet.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you may worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle carries on. And your general wellness can be negatively affected by this. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily activities like driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you don’t sleep. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Inferior work results: Obviously, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be less positive.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause of anxiety. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can try to avoid 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. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so great. oftentimes, the association between the two isn’t obvious. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction last week. Even a stressor from last year can cause an anxiety attack now.
- Medical conditions: In some situations, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, 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 factors: Some of the following, less common factors may also cause anxiety:
- Some recreational drugs
- Lack of nutrition
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment possibilities.
Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus
When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two general options at hand. You can either try to treat the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications might be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better prevent 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. Some of the most common treatments include:
- 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.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease your tinnitus symptoms.
Dealing with 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. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should give us a call.