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

You first hear the sound when you’re lying in bed trying to sleep: a pulsing or perhaps a throbbing, possibly a whooshing, inside of your ear. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is bad because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.

Does this situation sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.

Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?

Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not that simple. Firstly, lots of different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can appear.

For individuals who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often hinder their life because they have trouble controlling 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 specific combo of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:

  • Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your daily activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself cause more anxiety.
  • You may be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you detect tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.

Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Whether constant or sporadic, this combination of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.

How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?

So, yes, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep problems. Some examples of how are as follows:

  • Your stress level will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level increases your tinnitus will get worse.
  • Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
  • It can be hard to disregard your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. 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 harder to ignore.

When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, obviously, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of issues.

How lack of sleep affects your health

The impact insomnia has on your health will continue to become more significant as this vicious cycle continues. And your general wellness can be negatively affected by this. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the outcome.
  • Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
  • Poor work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t get to sleep, your job efficiency will become affected. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think clearly and quickly.
  • Increased 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.

Other causes of anxiety

Tinnitus, of course, is not the only cause of anxiety. And knowing these causes is important (largely because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:

  • Medical conditions: In some cases, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.
  • Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can take place when someone gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being around crowds can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
  • Stress response: When something causes us great 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 not so good when you’re dealing with an assignment for work. Often, it’s not so obvious what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.

Other factors: Some of the following, less common factors could also trigger anxiety:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Use of stimulants (that includes caffeine)
  • Some recreational drugs
  • Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)

This list is not complete. And if you believe you have an anxiety disorder, you should talk to your provider about treatment possibilities.

Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus

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

Addressing anxiety

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

  • 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 prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
  • Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.

Treating tinnitus

Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Some of the most common treatments include:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them generate new thought patterns.
  • Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
  • White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, use a white noise machine. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.

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 in danger 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.

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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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