You’re lying in bed trying to sleep when you first notice the sound: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is beating 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 have a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Tinnitus is typically defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a large number of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to buzzing and so on. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
For people who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently interfere with their life because they have difficulty controlling them. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Certainly!
Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Certainly, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your usual activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make falling asleep a bit tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
- You might 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 general anxiety levels.
There are instances where tinnitus can start in one ear and at some point move to both. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Whether continuous or sporadic, 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 the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and hard to dismiss. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to tune out.
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to get stressed out. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will be.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is quiet.
When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is near. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will become much more substantial. And this can really have a negative impact on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Inferior work results: Clearly, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
- Elevated stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks like driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and well-being. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. And recognizing these causes is essential (mostly because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, 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.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something stresses us. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s not so good when you’re dealing with a project for work. Sometimes, 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 tomorrow. You may even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for example.
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an elevated anxiety response.
Other factors: Less frequently, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
This list is not complete. And you should seek advice from your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
Treating anxiety-related tinnitus
You have two general choices to treat anxiety-related tinnitus. You can either try to treat the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either case:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications may be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you identify those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
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, utilize a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease your tinnitus symptoms.
You may 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 up at night. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.