Are my Sleep Issues and my Tinnitus Caused by Anxiety?

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

You’re lying in bed trying to sleep when you begin to hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or pulsating 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 not good. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.

Does this situation sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. And you can see how tinnitus and anxiety could easily conspire to create a vicious cycle, one that robs you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.

Can tinnitus be caused by anxiety?

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

For individuals who experience feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently hinder their life because they have difficulty controlling them. This can manifest in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Definitely!

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

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

  • Most people tend to experience tinnitus more frequently at night. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Sure, 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 falling asleep a bit tricky. And more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
  • Tinnitus can often be the first sign of a more severe anxiety attack (or similar occurrence). 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 change to the other. Sometimes, it can stick around 24/7–all day every day. In other situations, it might pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Either way, this anxiety-tinnitus-combination can have negative health consequences.

How does tinnitus-anxiety impact your sleep?

So, yeah, anxiety-related tinnitus could easily be causing your sleep problems. Some examples of how are as follows:

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

When your anxiety is triggering your tinnitus, you might hear that whooshing sound and worry that an anxiety attack is near. It’s no wonder that you’re having trouble sleeping. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.

Health affects of lack of sleep

As this vicious cycle continues, the health affects of insomnia will become much more significant. And this can really have a negative impact on your wellness. Some of the most common 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. Increased risk of a stroke or heart disease can be the result.
  • Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting adequate sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily tasks such as driving a little more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
  • Elevated stress and worry: When you don’t sleep, it makes those anxiety symptoms you already have even worse. This can become a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
  • Poor work performance: Obviously, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. You won’t be as eager or be able to think on your feet as quickly.

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 decrease your tinnitus at the same time. Some of the most common causes of anxiety include the following:

  • Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will naturally go into an anxious mode. That’s fantastic if you’re being chased by a lion. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Sometimes, the connection between the two is not apparent. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress response last week. Even a stressor from a year ago can cause an anxiety attack now.
  • Medical conditions: In some cases, you may 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 episode. Being in a crowded place, for example, can cause some individuals to have an anxiety response.

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

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

This list is not complete. And you should seek advice from your provider if you suspect you have an anxiety disorder.

How to treat your anxiety-related tinnitus?

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

Treating anxiety

There are a couple of options for treating anxiety:

  • Medication: In some instances, medication may help you cope with your symptoms or make your symptoms less pronounced.
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic method will help you identify thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by interrupting those thought patterns.

Treating tinnitus

There are a variety of ways to treat tinnitus and this is especially true if symptoms manifest primarily at night. Here are some common treatments:

  • Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): If someone with tinnitus can acknowledge and accept their tinnitus symptoms they can minimize the disruptive impact it has. CBT is a strategy that helps them do that by helping them produce new thought patterns.
  • White noise machine: When you’re attempting to sleep, use a white noise machine. This could help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This might help your tinnitus to be less obvious.

Addressing 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. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. 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.