Is my Anxiety Causing my Tinnitus and Sleep Issues?

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

You’re lying down in bed attempting to sleep when you begin to notice the sound: Your ear has a whooshing or throbbing in it. The sound is pulsing in rhythm with your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. You have a big day tomorrow and you really need your sleep so this is not good. Not only are you not feeling tired, you feel anxious.

Does this seem familiar? Anxiety, tinnitus, and sleep, as it turns out, are closely linked. And you can understand how tinnitus and anxiety might easily conspire to create a vicious cycle, one that deprives you of your sleep, your rest, and can affect your health.

Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?

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

An anxiety disorder is a condition in which feelings of fear, worry, or (as the name implies) anxiety are difficult to control and severe enough to interfere with your daily life. This can materialize in many ways physically, including as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Absolutely!

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

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

  • Normally, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can ringing in the ears be triggered by anxiety? Sure, but it’s also feasible 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 more anxiety can come from not sleeping.
  • You might be having a more severe 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 rise.

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. Whether continuous or intermittent, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.

How does tinnitus-anxiety affect your sleep?

So, yeah, anxiety-related tinnitus could definitely be contributing to your sleep troubles. Here are a few examples of how:

  • It can be hard to disregard your tinnitus and that can be very stressful. If you’re laying there just attempting to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. As your anxiety about not sleeping grows, the sound of the tinnitus symptoms can grow louder and even more difficult to ignore.
  • Most individuals like it to be quiet when they sleep. It’s nighttime, so you turn off everything. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more noticeable.
  • The longer you go without sleep, the easier it is for you to become stressed out. As your stress level goes up your tinnitus will get worse.

When your anxiety is causing your tinnitus, you may hear that whooshing sound and fear that an anxiety attack is coming. This can, understandably, make it very hard to sleep. The issue is that lack of sleep, well, kind of makes everything worse.

Health impacts of lack of sleep

As this vicious cycle keeps going, the health affects of insomnia will grow much more significant. And this can really have a detrimental impact on your wellness. Here are some of the most common effects:

  • Elevated stress and worry: When you’re not sleeping, it makes those anxiety symptoms already present even worse. This can result in a vicious cycle of mental health-related issues.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and wellness will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. You could find yourself at an increased risk of heart disease or stroke.
  • Poor work results: Clearly, 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.
  • 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 it’s especially dangerous if you operate heavy equipment, for example.

Other causes of anxiety

Of course, there are other causes of anxiety besides tinnitus. And understanding these causes is essential (largely because they will help you avoid anxiety triggers, which as an added bonus will help you avoid your tinnitus symptoms). Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:

  • Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. If you’re being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re working on a project at work, that’s not so good. Often, it’s not so obvious what the relationship between the two is. You could have an anxiety attack today from something that caused a stress reaction last week. You may even have an anxiety attack in reaction to a stressor from last year, for instance.
  • Medical conditions: In some instances, you might simply have a medical condition that makes you more prone to a heightened anxiety response.
  • Hyperstimulation: An anxiety attack can take place when somebody gets overstimulated with too much of any one thing. For example, being in a can sometimes cause an anxiety response for some.

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

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

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

Dealing with anxiety-induced tinnitus

You have two general options to manage anxiety-induced tinnitus. You can either try to treat the anxiety or address the tinnitus. In either situation, here’s how that might work:

Treating anxiety

Generally speaking, anxiety disorders are treated in one of two ways:

  • Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other situations, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.
  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapeutic method will help you recognize thought patterns that can unintentionally exacerbate your anxiety symptoms. By disrupting these thought patterns, patients are able to more successfully prevent anxiety attacks.

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): When you are dealing with tinnitus, CBT techniques can help you generate new thought patterns that accept, acknowledge, and reduce your tinnitus symptoms.
  • White noise machine: Use a white noise machine when you’re trying to sleep. This may help mask your tinnitus symptoms.
  • Masking device: This is basically a white noise machine that you wear near your ear. This may help your tinnitus to be less obvious.

Addressing your tinnitus could help you sleep better

As long as that humming or whooshing is keeping you awake at night, you’ll be at risk 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.


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