Are my Sleep Issues and my Tinnitus Triggered by Anxiety?

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

You first notice the sound when you’re in bed trying to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating 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 awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.

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

Can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety?

Tinnitus is generally defined as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. First of all, the actual noise you hear can take a wide variety of forms, from pulsing to throbbing to ringing and so on. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that isn’t really there. For many people, tinnitus can manifest when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is definitely a thing.

An anxiety disorder is a condition where feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name suggests) anxiety are hard to control and strong enough to hinder your daily life. This can manifest in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can tinnitus be triggered by anxiety? Definitely!

What’s bad about this combination of anxiety and tinnitus?

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

  • Normally, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. 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 usual activities were simply loud enough to mask the sound. This can make it harder to get to sleep. And that insomnia can itself result in more anxiety.
  • You may be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve recognized the connection between anxiety and tinnitus, any time you experience tinnitus symptoms your anxiety could increase.

Often, tinnitus can begin in one ear and then move to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is constant day and night. In other situations, it may pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.

How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?

Your sleep loss could certainly be the result of anxiety and tinnitus. Here are several examples of how:

  • The level of your stress will continue to rise the longer you go without sleeping. The higher your stress level, the worse your tinnitus will be.
  • It can be challenging to disregard your tinnitus and that can be extremely stressful. In the quiet of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping increases.
  • Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s bedtime. But when everything else is quiet, your tinnitus can become much more obvious.

When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.

How lack of sleep affects your health

As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more significant. And your overall wellness can be negatively affected by this. Some of the most common effects include the following:

  • Poor work results: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job performance will suffer. You won’t be as eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.
  • Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. 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.
  • Increased stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related problems.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can start to impact your long-term health and wellness. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.

Other causes of anxiety

Tinnitus, of course, isn’t the only cause of anxiety. It’s important to recognize what these causes are so you can stay away from stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:

  • Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, the connection between the two is not very clear. Something that caused 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 instance.
  • Medical conditions: You may, in some cases, have a heightened anxiety response because of a medical condition.
  • Hyperstimulation: For some individuals, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can result in an anxiety episode. For instance, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.

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

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

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

How to treat your anxiety-caused tinnitus?

When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two general options at hand. You can either try to treat the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:

Addressing anxiety

There are a couple of possibilities for treating anxiety:

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic approach will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally worsen your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully avoid anxiety attacks.
  • Medication: In some instances, medication may help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less noticeable.

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:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If somebody with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can reduce the disruptive effect it has. CBT is a method that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
  • 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.
  • White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, use a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.

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 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. 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.