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

You’re lying in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is rhythmic and tuned in to 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 bad. Not only are you not feeling sleepy, you feel anxious.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it so happens, are closely related. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to produce a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can impact your health.

Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?

Tinnitus is typically referred to as a ringing in the ears. But it’s not as simple as that. Firstly, lots of different noises can manifest from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. Essentially, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people get stressed out, for many people, tinnitus can manifest.

For people who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings often hinder their life because they have difficulty controlling them. Tinnitus is just one of several ways this can physically materialize. So can tinnitus be caused by anxiety? Absolutely!

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

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

  • Most individuals tend to experience tinnitus more often at night. Can anxiety trigger ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your everyday activities simply masked the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a little tricky. And that insomnia can itself cause more anxiety.
  • You might be having a more severe anxiety attack if you begin to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this connection, any episode of tinnitus (whether caused by anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your overall anxiety levels.

Often, tinnitus can begin 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 moments and then disappear. Whether continuous 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. Some examples of how are as follows:

  • Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s night, so you turn everything off. But your tinnitus can become much more obvious when everything is quiet.
  • The sound of your tinnitus can be stressful and difficult to dismiss. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so unrelenting that you lie awake until morning. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to ignore as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
  • The level of your stress will keep rising the longer you go without sleep. As your stress level increases your tinnitus gets worse.

When your tinnitus is a result of anxiety, you might worry that an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. This can, understandably, make it very difficult to sleep. The problem is that lack of sleep, well, sort of makes everything worse.

How lack of sleep impacts your health

The effect insomnia has on your health will continue to become more severe as this vicious cycle continues. And this can really have a negative affect on your wellness. Some of the most common effects include the following:

  • Elevated stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related problems.
  • Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more lethargic. Driving and other daily activities will then be more hazardous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
  • Higher risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be affected over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at a higher risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Inferior 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.

Other causes of anxiety

Tinnitus, of course, is not the only source of anxiety. It’s essential to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly reduce your tinnitus while you’re at it. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:

  • Medical conditions: You might, in some instances, have a heightened anxiety response due to a medical condition.
  • Stress response: Our bodies will have a natural 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 working on a project for work. Sometimes, the connection between the two is not very clear. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress response last week. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for instance.
  • Hyperstimulation: An anxiety reaction can take place when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For instance, being in a can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.

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

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

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

How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?

You have two basic options to treat anxiety-related tinnitus. The anxiety can be addressed or the tinnitus can be addressed. Here’s how that might work in either case:

Addressing anxiety

In general, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:

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

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: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.
  • White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): When you have tinnitus, CBT strategies can help you create new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and lessen 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. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. Contact us so we can help.

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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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