In this guide, we will discuss “Panic attacks at night before bed”, what are panic attacks, causes of nighttime panic attacks, how can you cope with them, and some additional considerations.
Panic attacks at night before bed
Panic attacks at night before bed are also called nocturnal panic attacks or night terrors.
They will happen when you are asleep and will abruptly wake you up, often experiencing the same symptoms as day time panic attacks.
However, panic attacks at night before bed can decrease the quality of sleep by preventing or having trouble going to sleep.
Sleep is extremely important for our body to rest and relax, giving us the change to recuperate if we have been injured, let go from stress and even consolidate our learning.
When we don’t get a good night’s sleep for a prolonged amount of time or even for a few days you can notice how you spend your day in a bad mood, irritable, with difficulties concentrating, among others.
Moreover, according to Katharina Star, “People with anxiety disorders often have a difficult time falling and staying asleep through the night.
For instance, people with panic disorder can be more prone to having anxious and fearful thoughts at night.
And it’s not uncommon for panic attacks to be more prevalent before bed, preventing you from getting a good night’s rest.”
Some people might no have full-blown panic attacks, but mini panic attacks when falling asleep, which can be dangerous. Therefore, you should also know tips to counter those attacks.
What is a panic attack?
Just as indicated by priorygroup.com, “Panic attacks are sudden, unexpected episodes of intense anxiety, which can cause a variety of frightening symptoms. These include:
- 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 feeling as though it’s a struggle to breathe
- 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”
However, we are aware that not every person suffering from panic attacks experience the same exact symptoms but most people describe having a panic attack for the first time as if they were dying from a heart attack or as if they were losing control (having a nervous breakdown).
Causes of nighttime panic attacks
Nocturnal or nighttime panic attacks may be more common than you think, so you are not alone.
In terms of the related causes, scientists can’t actually agree on the specific cause related to daytime or nighttime panic attacks, however, here are some potential factors:
- Genetics (family history). Having a family member that suffers from panic attacks may increase the chance of having them.
- Your personality traits or personality type prone to anxiety.
- Life stressors or events such as losing your job, death of a loved one, etc.
- Brain chemistry.
- Having underlying medical conditions or mental illnesses (i.e. obsessive-compulsive disorder or post-traumatic stress disorder)
- Lack of assertiveness.
- Alcohol, drugs, or medication withdrawal.
- The side effect of certain medications.
- A result of prolonged chronic physical illnesses such as cancer.
How can I cope with panic attacks?
How to stop panic attacks at night or before going to bed?
Having a panic attack before going to bed can be a scary, overwhelming, and even exhausting experience.
If you are suffering from panic attacks before going to bed you could try the following:
- As indicated by priorygroup.com, “If you wake up and you’re having a panic attack, it’s important not to fight it, as this could make things worse. Accept the panic attack for what it is and let the feelings wash over you. Remember, it is only temporary, and it will fade eventually. You just need to let it happen.”
- Getting enough time for sleeping. A proper night’s sleep is extremely important where it is recommended to have at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night. Also, setting up a wake-up and sleeping schedule such as waking up and going to sleep around the same time.
- After a panic attack, your body will take a while to go back to a resting and relaxed state. To speed up the process try to close your eyes and inhale deeply, exhaling slowly to normalize your breathing.
- If you are not able to go to sleep immediately after, don’t stay in bed. Get up and do something to take your mind off the episode. You could try listening to some calm and relaxing music, doing some meditation or yoga stretches, reading a book, or a menial chore (i.e. ironing). Avoid doing over-stimulating exercise, watching TV, or scrolling through social media.
- Go back to bed when you feel ready to go to sleep. Remember to engage in deep breathing exercises and relax your muscles as much as possible.
- Avoid consuming caffeine or nicotine before going to bed. If you are used to drinking coffee during the day or smoking, try to gradually reduce it to avoid having withdrawal symptoms that can increase your anxiety.
There are some options available to treat panic attacks such as psychotherapy or medication but the best approach to treat your anxiety will actually take a while, there are no immediate solutions.
However, as we have discussed panic attacks can result from having an untreated or undetected underlying condition such as:
- Heart disease.
- Chronic pain.
- Irritable bowel syndrome.
- Some brain tumors.
As indicated by Eleesha Lockett from healthline.com, “There are many forms of psychotherapy that can treat anxiety.
One of the most well-established methods is cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT).
CBT is a form of psychotherapy that encourages changing your thought patterns to improve your behavior and mood.”
Scientific research has shown significant results on the effectiveness of CBT in treating panic attacks without having to medicate.
Also, your therapist will help you develop strategies or will teach you techniques on how to manage or cope with anxiety in a more effective way which has a long-term effect.
However, some professionals after performing an assessment may decide to combine psychotherapy and medication.
There are various types of medications your doctor may prescribe when treating anxiety. However, it is important you ask as many questions related to pros, side effects, etc.
Some of the most commonly prescribed medications are:
- Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which are antidepressants.
- Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, which are classed as antidepressants.
- Benzodiazepines, which are known for their sedative effects and the risk of habit-forming.
One of the weak points of getting medicated are the side effects and how the medication will only reduce the symptoms and not really treat the reason why you are getting the panic attacks so as soon as you forget to take them or stop them (not without medical supervision), the symptoms will come back again.
Why is this blog about Panic attacks at night before bed important?
Panic attacks at night before bed can be quite frightening, overwhelming, scary, and exhausting, as we have discussed. Having a good night sleep is very important, when our quality of sleep gets reduced besides feeling tired or exhausted the next day, we could also experiment feeling confused, having trouble concentrating, etc.
Even though researchers haven’t actually agreed on a particular cause for panic attacks, there are some related causes we should be aware of. In addition, there are a few things we could do to treat anxiety some of them as simple as change¡ing of lifestyle or keeping a worrying journal or others such as going to therapy or getting medication to reduce the symptoms.
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.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Panic attacks at night before bed
How can I calm my anxiety at night?
To calm your anxiety at night try the following:
– Keep a worry journal. Write everything that comes to mind, every thought, or feeling before going to bed. This can help clear your mind from them.
– Adopt sleep hygiene habits such as limiting daytime naps to 30 mins, avoiding stimulants such as caffeine or nicotine before bedtime.
– Exercising regularly promotes good quality sleep.
– Meditation before bedtime.
What causes anxiety attacks at night?
There are many potential reasons why you could have anxiety attacks at night. For instance, if you have been under a lot of stress during the day, having poor sleep habits or having other underlying health conditions. However, there are some treatment options that can help ease anxiety attacks at night and improve your quality of sleep.
Is anxiety worse at night?
Anxiety may become worse at night for people who tend to struggle a lot during the day with anxiety and panic attacks. Moreover, when we are alone in our room or just with a lot of time to ourselves, it is easy to start worrying excessively for anxiety to kick in.
Can you have a panic attack while sleeping?
You can have a panic attack while sleeping, and it can actually happen without any obvious trigger with the power to awaken you at night. Just as daytime panic attacks, you can have to experience the same symptoms like sweating, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, heavy breathing or hyperventilating, tingling or numbing sensation, and a sense of impending doom.
What is night time anxiety?
Nighttime anxiety can happen when your daytime anxiety becomes too overwhelming and stays for longer than usual. When this happens, it can negatively impact our lives when we don’t develop strategies to cope with anxiety.
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.
Priorygroup.com: “How to stop panic attacks at night?”
Fletcher, J. (2019, Feb.) What to know about panic attacks at night. Retrieved from medicalnewstoday.com.
Star, K. (2020, Feb.) How to Get a Better Night’s Sleep. Retrieved from verywellmind.com.
Lockett, E. (2018, Dec.) How to Ease Anxiety at Night. Retrieved from healthline.com.