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 attempting to sleep when you begin to hear the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And regardless of how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you up, which is bad because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.

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

Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?

Generally, ringing in the ears is the definition of tinnitus. But it’s a bit more complicated than that. Firstly, many different sounds can occur from a ringing, buzzing, or humming to a pulsating or whooshing. But the noise you’re hearing isn’t an actual outside sound. For many, tinnitus can happen when you’re feeling stressed out, which means that stress-related tinnitus is absolutely a thing.

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

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

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

  • Most individuals tend to notice tinnitus more often 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 it harder to get to sleep. And that insomnia can itself result in more anxiety.
  • You might be having a more serious anxiety attack if you start to spike tinnitus symptoms. Once you’ve made this association, any occurrence of tinnitus (whether related to anxiety or not) could cause a spike in your general anxiety levels.

Often, tinnitus can start in one ear and then change to the other. There are some cases where tinnitus is continuous day and night. In other cases, it might pulsate for a few moments and then go away. Whether continuous or sporadic, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.

How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?

Your sleep loss could certainly be caused by anxiety and tinnitus. Some examples of how are as follows:

  • Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s nighttime, so you turn off everything. But your tinnitus can become much more noticeable when everything is quiet.
  • The level of your stress 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 stress you out and difficult to dismiss. In the silence of the night, your tinnitus can be so persistent that you lie awake until morning. As your anxiety about not sleeping increases, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even harder to ignore.

When your tinnitus is due to anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing noise. 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 affects 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 prevalent impacts include the following:

  • Reduced reaction times: When you aren’t getting enough sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. Driving and other daily tasks will then be more dangerous. And if, for example, you run heavy machinery, it can be particularly dangerous.
  • Elevated stress and worry: The anxiety symptoms already present will worsen if you don’t sleep. This can lead to a vicious cycle of mental health-related symptoms.
  • Greater risk of cardiovascular disease: Over time, lack of sleep can begin to affect your long-term health and well-being. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Poor work performance: It should come as no surprise that if you can’t sleep, your job efficiency will suffer. You won’t be as enthusiastic 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 important to know what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and maybe reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:

  • Hyperstimulation: For some people, getting too much of any one thing, even a good thing, can cause an anxiety episode. For example, being around crowds can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some people.
  • Stress response: When something causes us great stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. That’s great if you’re being chased by a tiger. But it’s less good when you’re dealing with an assignment for work. Sometimes, the relationship between the two is not very clear. You could have an anxiety attack now from something that caused a stress reaction last week. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from a year ago, for example.
  • Medical conditions: You may, in some instances, have an elevated anxiety response due to a medical condition.

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

  • Lack of nutrition
  • Use of stimulants (including caffeine)
  • Certain recreational drugs
  • Fatigue and sleep deprivation (see the vicious cycle once again)

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

Treating anxiety-induced tinnitus

You have two general choices to manage anxiety-related tinnitus. You can either try to address the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either case, here’s how that might work:

Addressing anxiety

There are a couple of options for managing anxiety:

  • Medication: In some instances, medication could help you deal with your symptoms or make your symptoms less obvious.
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently worsen your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you identify those thought patterns. By interrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more effectively prevent anxiety attacks.

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:

  • White noise machine: When you’re trying to sleep, utilize a white noise machine. This could 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 decrease your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Masking device: Think of this as a white noise machine you wear beside your ears. This can help reduce how much you notice your tinnitus.

You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus

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 solution. Give us a call 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.