Woman can't sleep at night because she's suffering from tinnitus and anxiety

You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is pulsing in rhythm with your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is bad. And suddenly you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.

Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.

Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?

Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a bit more complex than that. Firstly, many different sounds can manifest 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 people, tinnitus can appear.

For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often hinder their life because they have difficulty managing them. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Certainly!

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?

This combo of anxiety and tinnitus is bad news for a couple of the following reasons:

  • Normally, nighttime is when most people 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 usual activities were simply loud enough to cover up the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
  • You might be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.

There are instances where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and at some point move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few moments and then disappear. Whether continuous or sporadic, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.

How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?

Your sleep loss could absolutely be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are several examples of how:

  • The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
  • Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more noticeable.
  • 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. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to tune out.

When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, naturally, make it very hard to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.

How lack of sleep impacts your health

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. Here are a few of the most common impacts:

  • Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly dangerous if you run heavy equipment, for example.
  • Elevated 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.
  • Inferior work results: Obviously, 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.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and wellness. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.

Other causes of anxiety

Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to recognize what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:

  • Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, the association between the two isn’t very clear. You could have an anxiety attack now 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 instance.
  • Medical conditions: You might, in some situations, have an increased anxiety response due to a medical condition.
  • Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. Being in a crowded place, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.

Other factors: Less commonly, anxiety disorders may be caused by some of the following factors:

  • Stimulant usage (including caffeine)
  • Lack of nutrition
  • Certain recreational drugs
  • Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)

This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment options.

Dealing with anxiety-induced tinnitus

You have two basic choices to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be dealt with. Here’s how that may work in either case:

Treating anxiety

In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:

  • Medication: Medications might be used, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you recognize those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent anxiety attacks.

Treating tinnitus

Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:

  • Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
  • White noise machine: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this strategy.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.

Dealing with your tinnitus could help you sleep better

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 solution is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.

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The site information is for educational and informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. To receive personalized advice or treatment, schedule an appointment.

Medical information dates as new research comes out all the time - if you have a concern about your hearing, please call us.

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