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

You first notice the sound when you’re in bed trying to sleep: a pulsing or maybe a throbbing, perhaps a whooshing, right in your ear. The sound is beating at the same rhythm as your heartbeat. And no matter how hard you try, you can’t tune it out. It keeps you awake, which is not good because you need your sleep and you have a big day tomorrow. And suddenly you feel really anxious, not very sleepy.

Does this scenario sound familiar? Turns out, tinnitus, anxiety, and sleep are closely related. A vicious cycle that deprives you of your sleep and affects your health can be the result.

Can anxiety trigger tinnitus?

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. Basically, you’re hearing a sound that doesn’t really exist. When people experience stress, for many people, tinnitus can appear.

For people who cope with feelings of fear or worry and anxiety, these feelings frequently interfere with their life because they have trouble managing them. This can materialize in many ways physically, that includes as tinnitus. So can anxiety trigger tinnitus? Absolutely!

Why is this tinnitus-anxiety combo bad?

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

  • Usually, nighttime is when most individuals really notice their tinnitus symptoms. Can anxiety cause ringing in the ear? Yes, but the ringing might have also been there during the day but your day-to-day activities simply covered up the symptoms. This can make getting to sleep a bit tricky. And that sleeplessness can itself lead to 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 occurrence 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 hang around 24/7–all day every day. In other cases, it may pulsate for a few minutes and then disappear. Whether continuous or sporadic, this combo of anxiety and tinnitus can have health consequences.

How is your sleep impacted by tinnitus and anxiety?

So, yes, anxiety-driven tinnitus could easily be contributing to your sleep troubles. Some examples of how are as follows:

  • It can be challenging to ignore your tinnitus and that can be really stressful. If you’re laying there just trying to fall asleep, your tinnitus can become the metaphorical dripping faucet, keeping you up all night. Your tinnitus can become even louder and more difficult to tune out as your anxiety about not sleeping grows.
  • Most people like it to be quiet when they sleep. You turn everything off because it’s time for bed. But when everything else is silent, your tinnitus can become much more obvious.
  • Your stress level will keep rising the longer you go without sleeping. As your stress level increases your tinnitus will get worse.

When your tinnitus is caused by anxiety, you may fear an anxiety attack is coming as soon as you hear that whooshing sound. It’s no wonder that you’re losing sleep. But lack of sleep causes all kinds of problems.

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 your general wellness can be negatively impacted by this. Some of the most common effects include the following:

  • Slower reaction times: When you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, your reaction times are more sluggish. This can make daily tasks like driving a little more dangerous. And it’s particularly hazardous if you operate heavy machinery, for instance.
  • Increased 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 issues.
  • Increased risk of cardiovascular disease: Your long term health and well-being will be impacted over time by lack of sleep. Increased danger of a stroke or heart disease can be the consequence.
  • Inferior work performance: Naturally, your job performance will diminish if you can’t get a good night’s sleep. Your thinking will be sluggish and your mood will be more negative.

Other causes of anxiety

Tinnitus, of course, is not the only cause of anxiety. It’s important to recognize what these causes are so you can avoid stress triggers and possibly reduce your tinnitus at the same time. Here are some of the most common causes of anxiety:

  • 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 attack.
  • Medical conditions: You may, in some situations, have an elevated anxiety response because of a medical condition.
  • Stress response: When something causes us extreme stress, our bodies will normally go into an anxious mode. If you are being chased by a wild animal, that’s great. But when you’re dealing with a project at work, that’s not so great. Sometimes, the relationship between the two isn’t very clear. Something that caused a stress response last week could cause an anxiety attack today. You might even have an anxiety attack in response to a stressor from last year, for example.

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

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

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

How to treat your anxiety-induced tinnitus?

When it comes to anxiety-induced tinnitus, there are two basic options available. The anxiety can be dealt with or the tinnitus can be dealt with. In either case, here’s how that may work:

Addressing anxiety

There are a couple of possibilities for managing anxiety:

  • Cognitive-behavioral Therapy (CBT): Certain thought patterns can inadvertently exacerbate your anxiety symptoms and this strategy will help you identify those thought patterns. Patients are able to better avoid anxiety attacks by disrupting those thought patterns.
  • Medication: Medications might be utilized, in other circumstances, to make anxiety symptoms less prominent.

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:

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

You could get better sleep by addressing your tinnitus

You’ll be in danger of falling into a vicious cycle of anxiety and tinnitus if the whooshing and ringing are keeping you awake at night. One plan is to focus on fixing your tinnitus first. To do that, you should contact us.

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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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