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

You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating in it. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad because you need your sleep and you’ve got a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.

Does this scenario 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 generally 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 large number of forms, from pulsation to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many people, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.

For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have trouble managing them. This can manifest in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Absolutely!

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?

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

  • You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.
  • Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a bit tricky. And more anxiety can result from not sleeping.

Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. There are some instances where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combo can present some negative impacts on your health.

How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?

Your sleep loss could absolutely be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:

  • The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and hard to ignore. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you awake all night. Your tinnitus can become even louder and harder to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
  • Most people sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can become much more obvious.
  • The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to get stressed out. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.

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 problem is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.

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 detrimental affect on your wellness. Here are a few of the most common effects:

  • 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 hazardous if you operate heavy machinery, for example.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and well-being. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • 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.
  • Inferior work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will suffer. You won’t be as eager or be able to think clearly and quickly.

Other causes of anxiety

Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. And recognizing these causes is essential (largely because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an additional bonus will help you decrease your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:

  • Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something stresses us. 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, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress response a week ago. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
  • Medical conditions: You might, in some instances, have a heightened anxiety response because of a medical condition.
  • Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. For example, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.

Other causes: Less frequently, anxiety disorders might be caused by some of the following factors:

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

This isn’t an all-inclusive list. And you should talk to your provider if you believe you have an anxiety disorder.

Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus

With regards to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic choices available. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that might work in either case:

Treating anxiety

There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:

  • Medication: Medications may be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prevalent.
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this approach will help you recognize those thought patterns. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.

Treating tinnitus

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: Utilize a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms might be able to be masked by this strategy.
  • Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear next to your ears. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.

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. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. 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.

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