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

You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you first notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to your heartbeat. And once you notice that sound, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.

Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely linked. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to generate a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.

Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?

Tinnitus is generally referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Firstly, lots of different noises can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many, tinnitus can happen when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.

For people who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often hinder their life because they have trouble managing them. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Certainly!

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?

There are a couple of reasons why this specific combination of tinnitus and anxiety can lead to bad news:

  • Tinnitus can often be the first sign of a more significant anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). 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.
  • Usually, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be triggered 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 hide the sound. This can make it more difficult to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself cause more anxiety.

There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and at some point move to both. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.

How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?

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

  • Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s nighttime, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can be much more obvious when everything is silent.
  • The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level rises your tinnitus will get worse.
  • The sound of your tinnitus can stress you out and hard to ignore. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to tune out.

When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is near. It’s not surprising that you’re having trouble sleeping. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of problems.

How lack of sleep impacts your health

As this vicious cycle continues, 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:

  • Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily activities such as driving a little more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
  • Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
  • Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will get worse if you’re not sleeping. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can be the outcome.
  • Poor work results: It should come as no shock that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will become affected. You won’t be as eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.

Other causes of anxiety

Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only source of anxiety. And recognizing these causes is essential (mainly because they will help you prevent anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:

  • Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can bring on an anxiety episode. Being in a crowded environment, for example, can cause some people to have an anxiety attack.
  • Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural anxiety response when something causes us stress. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s a good thing. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the association between the two is not very clear. Something that caused a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack tomorrow. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from a year ago, for example.
  • Medical conditions: You may, in some cases, have an increased anxiety response because of a medical condition.

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

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

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

How to fix your anxiety-related tinnitus?

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

Treating anxiety

There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this method will help you identify those thought patterns. Patients are able to better prevent anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
  • Medication: Medications might be used, 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): When you suffer from tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
  • White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this strategy.
  • Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This can help minimize how much you notice your tinnitus.

You may get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus

As long as that thrumming or whooshing is keeping you up 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. Give us a call so we can help.

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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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