Is my Anxiety Causing my Tinnitus and Sleep Problems?


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

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

Does this sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.

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 sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. When people get stressed out, for many, tinnitus can appear.

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

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?

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

  • Most people tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. 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 usual activities were simply loud enough to hide the sound. This can make falling asleep a little tricky. And that sleeplessness can itself lead to more anxiety.
  • Tinnitus can often be the first indication of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether due to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.

There are situations where tinnitus can start in one ear and eventually move to both. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. There are other situations where it comes and goes. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.

How is your sleep affected by tinnitus and anxiety?

So, yeah, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be causing your sleep problems. Here are several examples of how:

  • The longer you go without sleeping, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus gets 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 obvious when everything is quiet.
  • 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 awake all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can get louder and even harder to tune out.

When your anxiety is contributing to your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is near. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep leads to all kinds of problems.

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 overall wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Here are some of the most common impacts:

  • Poor work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t get to sleep, your job performance will become affected. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be less positive.
  • Reduced reaction times: Your reaction times will be slower when you’re exhausted. This can make daily activities like driving a little more hazardous. And it’s particularly dangerous if you run heavy equipment, for instance.
  • Elevated stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
  • Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be affected over time by lack of sleep. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the consequence.

Other causes of anxiety

Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause 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 avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:

  • Medical conditions: In some instances, you may simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to an increased anxiety response.
  • Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. For instance, being in a can sometimes trigger an anxiety response for some.
  • 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 great. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the connection between the two isn’t obvious. Something that caused a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack today. You might even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for instance.

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

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

This list is not complete. And if you think you have an anxiety disorder, you should consult your provider about treatment options.

How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?

With regards to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two general options available. You can either try to treat the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:

Addressing anxiety

Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are managed in one of two ways:

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively prevent anxiety attacks.
  • Medication: In some cases, medication may help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.

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:

  • 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.
  • White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you suffer from tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.

Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better

You’ll be at risk of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you up at night. 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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