In this guide, we will discuss How to stop panic attacks at night, what are nocturnal panic attacks, what are the main causes, what can you do after having a nocturnal panic attack, and a few tips on how you could cope with anxiety.
How to stop panic attacks at night?
If you wonder ‘How to stop panic attacks at night or before going to bed‘ consider the following:
- Do not fight the panic attack.
- Focus on your breathing, taking deep breaths, and try to relax.
- Get up and check the details of the room focusing on one object.
- When you are ready, try to go back to bed.
- Give yourself time to get enough sleep.
- Establish a sleep routine.
- Limit or avoid consuming caffeine, sugar, and alcohol as well as smoking before going to bed.
Having a good night’s sleep is fundamental not only for our physical health but also for our mental health.
When we sleep our body has the chance to heal, our brain to store things we have learned into our long term memory, among other benefits.
Moreover, we have felt how not getting good sleep during the night can have repercussions the next day.
The nocturnal panic attacks can occur at any moment and awaken you from your sleep where they tend to last a few minutes but it will require some time to calm down and be able to go back to sleep.
Following the tips we have mentioned may not cure entirely the panic attacks at night but it may reduce the anxiety symptoms.
What are panic attacks?
Panic attacks happen suddenly and are unexpected, no apparent trigger or reason and they can cause a series of symptoms that may include, according to priorygroup.com:
- Feeling out of control and disconnected from your surroundings
- Feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- Chest pains and shortness of breath – tightness of the chest and difficulty breathing
- A racing or pounding heart
- Feeling as though you’re choking
- Muscle spasms and palpitations
- Excessive sweating
- Trembling or shaking
- Numbness and tingling, for example, tingling lips and numbness in your fingers and toes
- Fluctuating body temperature – feeling very hot or very cold
Most panic attack sufferers may fear the idea of having a panic attack that can create a vicious circle.
When people suffer from nighttime panic attacks or nocturnal panic attacks happen when you are asleep and tend to wake you up just with the same symptoms experienced during daytime panic attacks.
Even though they may last just a few minutes, you may take a considerable amount of time to calm down and go back to sleep.
Moreover, the fear of having another panic attack while you are sleeping can make it difficult to go back to sleep, leading to insomnia.
What are the main causes of having night time panic attacks?
There is no clear and straight answer on the matter since researchers haven’t found yet specific reasons why someone may experience nocturnal panic attacks.
However, consider how your brain is still working while you sleep, it never switches off.
In contrast, researchers suggest that there could be factors associated with increasing the risk of suffering from panic attacks (both diurnal and nocturnal).
These may include:
- Suffering from chronic stress from your day to day activities.
- Comorbidities with other mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
- Genetics – were having a parent or a sibling that suffers from panic attacks may increase your chance to have them.
- Side effects of certain medications.
- Withdrawal symptoms from alcohol or drugs.
- The intake of certain substances such as cannabis or caffeine.
- Suffering from chronic medical conditions.
- Suffering a traumatic event such as the death of a loved one or significant changes such as becoming a parent.
Can underlying conditions influence?
It is believed that certain medical conditions can cause symptoms associated with anxiety and even panic attacks.
Some of the conditions include heart disease, hyperthyroidism, diabetes, certain brain tumors, among others.
Subsequently, talk to your doctor to seek treatment first for any underlying conditions and see if they are responsible for your panic attacks.
How can I cope with the nocturnal panic attacks?
This can be a very frightening and overwhelming experience that you feel may never get used to.
However, fighting against it can make things worse so acknowledge it, accept it, and remember it is temporary.
Moreover, try to focus on your breathing while breathing slowly through your nose and out through your mouth.
While doing so, try to relax your muscles and use your imagination to take you to your happy place.
After the panic attack has passed, it is normal to start wondering why it happened in the first place and if it is likely to return again while you sleep.
However, it is important to distract yourself from the thought and shift your focus off it. You could put some relaxing music on and drink some water.
We would talk next about some of the tips that can help prevent panic attacks at night.
Get enough sleep
It is known how, on average, an adult needs at least eight to nine hours of sleep to feel refreshed the next morning.
Then it makes sense you try to go to sleep considering at least 8 hours of sleeping throughout the night.
If you go to sleep too late, you may not have enough sleep which translates in not feeling rested the next morning.
Moreover, if you go to sleep looking at your clock and thinking about the number of hours you have left, you won’t rest at all.
Set up your routine
If you feel anxious for the following day, it helps to reduce anxiety if you plan your day ahead or at least the things you are more concerned about such as a big meeting or presentation by doing a list of things you may need for your day.
Check your sleeping habits
Having a consistent sleep routine or sleeping habits, for instance by going to bed and waking up almost at the same time every day, including your weekend.
Another thing that could help would be establishing a routine before going to bed that will help you relax, for example, taking a hot bath, meditating, reading, or listening to some music.
Avoid caffeine, sugar, and alcohol before going to bed
It is widely known that caffeine, sugar, and alcohol are substances that can make you feel more anxious preventing you from going to sleep.
In addition, waking up during the night to go to the toilet will interrupt your sleep, making it difficult for you to go back to sleep.
Subsequently, limit or avoid the consumption of these substances as well as drinking too much water before going to bed to avoid struggling or having your sleep interrupted.
What should I do after waking up with a nocturnal panic attack?
If you are fortunate enough to go back to sleep after waking up with nocturnal panic attack then there is nothing else you really need to do.
However, chances are you won’t immediately go to sleep after experiencing this situation so avoid lying there, wondering if there will be another attack coming soon.
On the contrary, try to get out of bed and wake yourself by splashing some water on your face or walk to the kitchen and have some water.
You could also walk around the house or your apartment once and then go back to your room but avoid instinctively powering on the TV or checking at your phone.
Instead, try reading your favorite magazine, book, or something that can distract you in an attempt to fall right back asleep.
However, if after a few minutes you are still fully awake try to do some easy but distracting chore like doing a quick wipe of bathroom sinks, counters, and faucets or if you have washed your dishes, try to put things back in their place.
In contrast, if you are still unable to sleep and you keep having problems throughout the week, we recommend seeking professional advice from a mental health professional.
Is there treatment available?
There is no known cure for panic attacks, but the current treatment alternatives include medications, psychotherapy, or a combination of both.
Psychotherapy, like Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), has proven to be very effective in numerous studies and clinical trials.
Through CBT the therapist can guide you to find the connection between what you are thinking, how it makes you feel, and how we respond to such thoughts.
By identifying the vicious and never-ending cycle that anxiety may cause, it can be very helpful to find a way to break the pattern.
Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications are the ones prescribed to treat or relieve the symptoms associated with anxiety.
Moreover, the prescribed medication, particularly SSRIs and some SNRIs, has been shown to be highly effective in treating the symptoms.
Some of the anti-anxiety medications include benzodiazepines such as alprazolam (Xanax), diazepam (Valium) or lorazepam (Ativan).
However, these types of drugs can create addiction or tolerance and can have certain side effects such as drowsiness, nausea, irritability, headaches, difficulties concentrating, among others.
Subsequently, it should only be prescribed and used under the supervision of your doctor.
Why is this blog about How to stop panic attacks at night important?
How to stop panic attacks at night doesn’t have a unique or specific answer since there is no known way to stop them entirely but to reduce the presentation of the attacks and the anxiety symptoms altogether.
As we have mentioned, it is an overwhelming and frightening situation where the thought alone of having another panic attack during the night is reason enough to keep us awake all night.
However, as we mentioned, there are some tips and treatment options available to consider when attempting to improve your quality of life.
Please feel free to leave any comments or thoughts about the content of this article!
Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.
What we recommend for Panic disorder
- Panic courses are a cost-effective way to seek help for panic attacks. A panic course such as this may help you alleviate those feelings of fears as it has with over 50,000 people.
- If you are suffering from a panic disorder, then ongoing professional counselling may be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.
Weighted Blankets may help you sleep better if you are having panic attack and they are affecting your quality of sleep. Weighted blankets apply enough weight on you that they make you feel much more relaxed and calm at night
Bijlani, N. (n.d.) How to cope with panic attacks at night. Retrieved from priorygroup.com.
Lockett, E. (2018, Dec.) How to Ease Anxiety at Night. Retrieved from healthline.com.
Sawchuk, C.N. (n.d.) Nocturnal panic attacks: What causes them?. Retrieved from mayoclinic.org.