Are my Sleep Problems and my Tinnitus Triggered by Anxiety?

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

You’re lying down in bed trying to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And once you hear that sound, you can’t tune it out. You have a lot to do tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.

Does this seem familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely associated. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the result.

Can anxiety lead to tinnitus?

Tinnitus is generally defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. First of all, the actual sound you hear can take a large number of shapes, from pulsation to throbbing to ringing and so on. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual external sound. For many, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.

An anxiety disorder is an affliction in which feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are hard to control and intense enough to interfere with your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety cause tinnitus? Absolutely!

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:

  • Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Certainly, but it’s also possible that the ringing’s been there all day and your normal activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that sleeplessness can itself cause more anxiety.
  • Tinnitus can frequently be the first indication of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar episode). Once you’ve made this association, any episode of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.

Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then move to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then go away. Whether constant or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.

How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?

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 sleeping. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will tend to become.
  • The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and hard to overlook. If you’re laying there just attempting 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 more difficult to tune out.
  • Most people sleep in locations that are intentionally quiet. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can be much more noticeable.

When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. It’s no wonder that you’re losing 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 severe as this vicious cycle continues. And this can really have a detrimental affect on your wellness. Some of the most prevalent effects include the following:

  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to impact your long-term health and wellness. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
  • Inferior work performance: Naturally, your job performance will suffer if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. You won’t be as enthusiastic or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
  • Increased stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will worsen if you’re not sleeping. A vicious cycle of mental health related symptoms can result.
  • Slower reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. Driving and other daily activities will then be more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you run heavy equipment, for example.

Other causes of anxiety

Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s important to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly 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 stresses us. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a tiger. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with an assignment for work. Sometimes, the relationship between the two isn’t obvious. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction a week ago. Even a stressor from last year can trigger an anxiety attack now.
  • Medical conditions: In some situations, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more susceptible to a heightened anxiety response.
  • Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety attack. Being in a crowded environment, for example, can cause some people to have an anxiety response.

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

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

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

How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?

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

Addressing anxiety

There are a couple of possibilities for treating anxiety:

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.
  • Medication: Medications may 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:

  • Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you suffer from tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen your tinnitus symptoms.
  • White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.

Addressing your tinnitus could 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 up at night. Dealing with your tinnitus first is one possible option. Contact us so we can help.

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.