Is my Anxiety Contributing To 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 in bed attempting to sleep: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic in tune with your heartbeat. And once you hear 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. 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. A vicious cycle that robs you of your sleep and impacts your health can be the outcome.

Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?

Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Firstly, lots of different sounds can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a beating or whooshing. But the sound you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many people, tinnitus can occur when you’re feeling stressed, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.

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 materialize. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Certainly!

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?

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

  • Tinnitus can frequently be the first sign 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.
  • Most people tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can ringing in the ears be caused by anxiety? Yes, but the ringing may have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make falling asleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself result in more anxiety.

There are instances 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. There are other circumstances where it comes and goes. Whether continuous or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.

How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?

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

  • Most people sleep in environments that are intentionally quiet. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is silent.
  • Your stress level 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 ignore. If you’re laying there just trying 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 ignore.

When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. But lack of sleep results in all kinds of problems.

Health affects of lack of sleep

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

  • Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be affected over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Poor work performance: Obviously, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a sound night’s sleep. Your thinking will be slower and your mood will be less positive.
  • Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will get worse if you don’t sleep. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
  • Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more hazardous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you operate heavy equipment, for example.

Other causes of anxiety

Of course, there are other sources of anxiety besides tinnitus. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most typical causes of anxiety include the following:

  • Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can take place when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. Being in a crowded place, for instance, can cause some people to have an anxiety attack.
  • Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have an increased anxiety response due to a medical condition.
  • Stress response: Our bodies will have a normal anxiety response when something causes us stress. That’s great if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. oftentimes, the connection between the two is not apparent. Something that caused a stress response a week ago could cause an anxiety attack today. Even a stressor from last year can cause an anxiety attack now.

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

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

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

Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus

When it comes to anxiety-related tinnitus, there are two general choices available. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. Here’s how that may work in either case:

Treating anxiety

There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:

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

Treating tinnitus

Tinnitus can be treated in a variety of different ways, especially if it presents while you’re sleeping. Here are some common treatments:

  • Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
  • White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. Your tinnitus symptoms may be able to be masked by this approach.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and decrease your tinnitus symptoms.

Dealing with your tinnitus may help you sleep better

As long as that thrumming 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. 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.