You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you begin to hear the sound: a pulsing or maybe a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to create a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?
Tinnitus is generally defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a little more complicated than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of forms, from pulsation to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many people, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and severe enough to interfere with your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Definitely!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make falling asleep a little 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 caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then change to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. 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, yeah, anxiety-driven tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep problems. Here are a few examples of how:
- the level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level increases your tinnitus gets worse.
- Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
- It can be hard to disregard your tinnitus and that can be really 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 ignore.
When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, obviously, make it very difficult to sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep impacts your health
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will become much more severe. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be affected over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
- Increased stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can occur.
- Poor work results: Naturally, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. You won’t be as eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And understanding these causes is essential (mostly 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:
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can take place when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
- Medical conditions: In some cases, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to an increased anxiety response.
- Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with a project for work. oftentimes, the connection between the two is not very clear. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors could also trigger anxiety:
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Some recreational drugs
- Poor nutrition
This list is not exhaustive. And if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment possibilities.
How to deal with your anxiety-related tinnitus?
With regards to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic choices available. The anxiety can be dealt with 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 approach will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
- Medication: Medications may be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
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:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
Dealing with your tinnitus may help you sleep better
You’ll be at risk of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you up at night. One solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.