You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: a beating or perhaps a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, right in 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’ve got a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel very anxious, very not sleepy.
Does this sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.
Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?
Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, many different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. When people get stressed out, for many people, tinnitus can manifest.
An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of dread, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and intense enough to interfere with your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!
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:
- Most people tend to notice tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your daily activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first sign of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then change to the other. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few moments and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.
How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?
So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep problems. Here are several examples of how:
- The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
- The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to dismiss. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even more difficult to ignore.
- Most people 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 be much more obvious.
When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.
How lack of sleep affects your health
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health impacts of insomnia will grow much more significant. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and wellness. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the consequence.
- Poor work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
- Increased stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
- Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. 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 knowing these causes is essential (mainly because they will help you prevent 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: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety episode. For instance, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some people.
- Medical conditions: In some instances, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with an assignment for work. oftentimes, the relationship between the two isn’t apparent. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.
Other causes: Less commonly, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:
- Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
- Lack of nutrition
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Certain recreational drugs
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should consult your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.
Dealing with anxiety-related tinnitus
When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two general choices available. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either situation, here’s how that might work:
In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:
- Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you identify those thought patterns. Patients are able to better avoid 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. Here are some common treatments:
- 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): When you have tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
- White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this strategy.
You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
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 solution. Give us a call so we can help.