You first notice the sound when you’re in bed attempting to sleep: a beating or maybe a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.
Does this scenario sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.
Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?
In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Firstly, many different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many people, tinnitus can appear when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.
For individuals who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have difficulty managing them. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Absolutely!
What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?
There are a couple of reasons why this particular combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:
- Tinnitus can frequently be the first sign of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve acknowledged the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could rise.
- Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can have negative health consequences.
How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?
So, yes, anxiety-driven tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep troubles. Some examples of how are as follows:
- The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and difficult to overlook. In the silence 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 harder to ignore.
- Most individuals sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is silent.
- The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus will get worse.
When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s not surprising that you’re having trouble sleeping. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.
Health impacts of lack of sleep
As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will become much more severe. And your overall wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:
- Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
- Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily activities like driving a little more hazardous. And it’s especially dangerous if you run heavy equipment, for instance.
- Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will get worse if you don’t sleep. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
- Inferior work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will suffer. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
Other causes of anxiety
Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. And understanding these causes is important (largely because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:
- Medical conditions: You might, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.
- 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 great. But it’s less good when you’re working on a project for work. oftentimes, the relationship between the two is not very clear. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction last week. Even a stressor from a year ago can trigger an anxiety attack now.
- Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded environment, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety attack.
Other factors: Less frequently, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:
- Certain recreational drugs
- Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
- Poor nutrition
- Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)
This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment options.
How to deal with your anxiety-induced tinnitus?
When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options at hand. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that may work:
There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:
- Medication: Medications may be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
- Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic strategy will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by interrupting 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:
- White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, use a white noise machine. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
- Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
- Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can recognize and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive impact it has. CBT is an approach that helps them do that by helping them create new thought patterns.
You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus
As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you awake at night, you’ll be at risk of falling into one of these vicious cycles, fueled by anxiety and tinnitus. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.