You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is no good. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this situation 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 lead to tinnitus?
Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Firstly, lots of different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. When people experience stress, for many, tinnitus can appear.
For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have difficulty managing them. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Certainly!
What’s bad about this combo of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combo of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:
- Usually, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Certainly, but it’s also feasible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself result in more anxiety.
- Tinnitus can often 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 notice tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Whether constant 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 absolutely be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Here are several examples of how:
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed. As your stress level increases your tinnitus gets worse.
- It can be hard to ignore your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to ignore.
- Most people sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more noticeable.
When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s not surprising that you’re losing sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of problems.
Health affects of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will become much more substantial. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:
- Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
- Elevated stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Poor work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be less positive.
- Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and well-being. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
Other causes of anxiety
Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can try to avoid stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:
- Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety attack.
- Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But it’s less good when you’re working on a project for work. Sometimes, the association between the two is not apparent. Something that triggered a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for instance.
- Medical conditions: You might, in some situations, have an increased anxiety response due to a medical condition.
Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Exhaustion and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
- Poor nutrition
This list is not complete. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment possibilities.
How to deal with your anxiety-caused tinnitus?
With regards to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two general options at hand. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either case, here’s how that might work:
Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:
- Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy 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.
There are a variety of ways to treat tinnitus and this is especially true if symptoms manifest primarily at night. Some of the most common treatments include:
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge 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. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
Dealing with your tinnitus may help you sleep better
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. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Give us a call so we can help.