You’re lying in bed trying to sleep when you first notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is bad. And all of a sudden you feel very anxious, not very sleepy.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the outcome.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a little more complex than that. Firstly, lots of different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is a condition in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and strong enough to interfere with your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:
- Usually, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make falling asleep a bit tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more serious anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve recognized the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then go away. Whether continuous or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep issues. Here are several examples of how:
- The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus will get worse.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more noticeable.
- It can be challenging to disregard your tinnitus and that can be very stressful. 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 harder to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you might fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of problems.
Health affects of lack of sleep
The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more profound as this vicious cycle continues. And your general wellness can be negatively affected by this. Here are a few of the most common impacts:
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms you already have will get worse if you’re not sleeping. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can occur.
- Poor work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job performance will become affected. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower 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.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And recognizing 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). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something stresses us. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, the association between the two isn’t apparent. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. You may even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety attack. For example, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Some recreational drugs
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should seek advice from your provider if you think you have an anxiety disorder.
Dealing with anxiety-induced tinnitus
In terms of anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options available. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal 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 disrupting 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. Here are some common treatments:
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms might 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 minimize the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.
You may get better sleep by dealing with 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 give us a call.