You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And no matter 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. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.
Does this situation sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to produce a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.
Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a little more complex than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsation 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 people who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have difficulty controlling them. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
This combination 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 caused by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your ordinary activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that insomnia can itself result in more anxiety.
- Tinnitus can often be the first sign of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve acknowledged the link between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.
There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and eventually move to both. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yeah, anxiety-related tinnitus could easily be causing your sleep issues. Here are several examples of how:
- Most individuals sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.
- The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. The more stressed you are, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
- 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. Your tinnitus can become even louder and harder to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you may worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. It’s no wonder that you’re having trouble sleeping. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more significant. And your general wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more hazardous. And it’s especially dangerous if you operate heavy equipment, for example.
- 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.
- Poor work performance: Clearly, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think clearly and quickly.
- Increased stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. 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 relationship between the two isn’t apparent. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction last week. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for example.
- Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can occur when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.
Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors may also trigger anxiety:
- Lack of nutrition
- Some recreational drugs
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Stimulant usage (that includes caffeine)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment solutions.
How to treat your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
In terms of anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two general options available. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that may work in either circumstance:
There are a couple of options for treating anxiety:
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively prevent anxiety attacks.
- Medication: In some cases, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less noticeable.
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:
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this strategy.
Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you up at night, you’ll be in danger of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should contact us.