Is my Anxiety Contributing To my Tinnitus and Sleep Issues?

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

You’re lying in bed trying to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with 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’ve got a big day tomorrow. And all of a sudden you feel really anxious, very not sleepy.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the outcome.

Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?

In general, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a little more complex than that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a wide variety of shapes, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can manifest.

For people who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often interfere with their life because they have trouble managing them. Tinnitus is just one of the many ways this can physically manifest. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Definitely!

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combination bad?

There are a couple of reasons why this particular combo of tinnitus and anxiety can result in bad news:

  • You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.
  • Normally, nighttime is when most people really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your daily activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make falling asleep a bit tricky. And that sleeplessness can itself lead to more anxiety.

There are situations where tinnitus can manifest in one ear and at some point move to both. Sometimes, it can hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other situations, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.

How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?

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

  • It can be challenging to ignore your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. If you’re laying there just attempting 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 tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
  • The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level increases your tinnitus will get worse.
  • Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is quiet.

When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you might fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.

How lack of sleep affects your health

As this vicious cycle continues, the health impacts of insomnia will grow much more substantial. And your general wellness can be negatively affected by this. Some of the most prevalent impacts include the following:

  • Poor work results: Obviously, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.
  • 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.
  • Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be reduced when you’re exhausted. This can make daily tasks like driving a little more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and well-being. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.

Other causes of anxiety

Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and maybe decrease your tinnitus at the same time. 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 individuals to have an anxiety response.
  • Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But it’s not so good when you’re working on an assignment for work. Often, it’s not so obvious what the link between the two is. Something that triggered a stress response last week 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: In some situations, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.

Other causes: Some of the following, less common factors may also cause anxiety:

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

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

Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus

You have two general choices to treat anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that may work:

Treating anxiety

There are a couple of possibilities for treating anxiety:

  • Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively prevent anxiety attacks.

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: Use a white noise machine when you’re attempting to sleep. 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 reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can decrease the disruptive effect 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 humming 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. Managing your tinnitus first is one possible option. To do that, you should contact us.

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.