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If you have ever gotten up anxious, sweating, and feeling palpitations in the middle of the night then it is probable you had a nocturnal panic attack. Although it feels longer, they last a couple of minutes like a daytime panic attack. Also, many people fear that they will die or have a heart attack while others experience shallow breathing, disorientation, and other symptoms. I am very sure many of you had this scary and uncomfortable experience. I suffered most of my panic attacks at night. One of the most effective ways to stop a panic attack at night before it gets worse is to focus on your breathing.
Make sure to inhale and fill your belly with air like a balloon. Hold it for a couple of seconds and exhale. Repeat if necessary. You can correct your breathing and follow our effective tips here. Also, get off the bed and do something to distract your mind such as reading. Also, watching a funny video or repeating any positive affirmations such as “I will be fine; this is just a panic attack” can help.
Waking up with a panic attack is not only frightening but also can affect your sleeping pattern. However, the good news is that you can prevent a nocturnal panic attack by practicing relaxation strategies that will help and will ensure a night of better sleep. We will offer more tips on how to beat them to improve your quality of life.
We will discuss the causes, symptoms, and how to defeat them just like I did. This article is a great source of information for those who are having a hard time controlling their nocturnal panic attacks.
What causes nocturnal panic attacks
People with panic attacks will suffer at least one at night. Therefore, it is very important to medically find out the causes to rule out any sleep problems or health conditions.
If all your blood tests came clear then severe stress is to blame. Tension will affect sleep patterns, lifestyle, and health in general.
Many factors can trigger nocturnal panic attacks depending on the intensity and frequency. Also, age, sex, health, and stress level are other factors too. For example, lack of sleep can lead to elevated stress levels which may cause uncontrollable intense fears. Also, many women can experience anxiety and intense fears during PMS, ovulation, perimenopause or menopause. This may also cause sleep problems which could be related to nocturnal panic attacks. In addition, anticipating another panic attack also leads to intense fears during the night.
Most of my panic attacks at night were caused by nightmares or if I ate too much. I would wake up confused and feeling very anxious. Then my heart was pounding very fast and I felt like I was losing control. I would talk to myself and keep myself distracted. In my own experience, I found nocturnal panic attacks easier to control than the daytime ones. However, no matter when you suffer them, day or night, panic attacks are, not only scary but they also leave you drained.
Therefore, it is very important to conquer them and follow our recommendations that will be discussed further. But now, let’s explain the long terms situations that you may face if your nocturnal panic attacks are not treated.
Consequences of panic attacks in the middle of the night
It is very important that you learn to control and stop a panic attack at night to prevent any long term issues as they can affect our sleep patterns. For example, you may be worried about the symptoms, your job or about any life events. These worrying thoughts can trigger your panic attacks. I almost developed sleep phobia because I was anticipating a panic attack. Honesty, I would sleep much better during the day than nights.
However, my sleep quality worsened which made me feel irritable, anxious, stressed, and even tired. I did not know what was a good night’s sleep for a very long time. My muscles felt very stiff and my stress levels increased. My panic attacks were getting more frequent and intense.
If panic attacks are not treated your health can be affected in the long run. To learn more go to our article “Can you die from panic attacks? We clear up any doubts” to help you overcome the symptoms. In addition, nocturnal panic attacks can lead to stress-related health problems, fatigue, and other issues over time. Also, it can affect existing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia.
Not getting enough sleep also affects your work performance and your lifestyle in general. It also will increase the risks of cardiovascular problems, diabetes, obesity, and others.
Keep in mind that sleeping is as important as breathing. It reduces your stress levels, improves concentration, and increases productivity. Now we will discuss how you can achieve a better sleep to help you control your panic attacks.
How to calm anxiety or panic attacks at night
You can stop a panic attack at night and improve your sleep. I will share some suggestions that helped me control them until eventually, they went away.
Like daytimes panic attacks, nocturnal ones are treated the same way. If you go to a doctor you may be recommended therapy or medications.
However, if you decide to treat them naturally this is what you need to do:
Find out what triggers your panic attacks
As we have mentioned in our other posts, knowing why you are suffering them will give you peace of mind. If you started to experience your first panic attacks it is best to consult your doctor.
Know the symptoms
Panic attacks can manifest differently in people. Therefore, it is very important to recognize the signs first. Our article “What are the panic attack symptoms and how to beat them” show you effective ways to beat the onset of the symptoms to help prevent a full-blown panic attack.
Learn new ways to relax
Some people love yoga while others prefer to meditate. Exploring different ways to have a peaceful life is a great way to improve your quality of life. Enjoying new hobbies will help as well. I like taking short naps or watching an inspiring movie.
Keep yourself active
Exercising is an effective way to lower stress levels and will help you sleep better. Also, it can improve your breathing, circulation, and general wellbeing. Following a fitness plan, walking, jogging or practicing your favorite sport will benefit not only your body but also your mind.
Practice deep breathing
Stress hormones affect your breathing, making it shallow and faster. In the long run, this can trigger panic attacks. Therefore, taking deep breaths will decrease stress levels which promotes relaxation and relieves panic attack symptoms. Doing it before going to sleep will help you control them. You can follow our suggestions to improve your breathing here. This a great way to gradually stop a panic attack at night.
Shift worry thoughts into positive ones
It is very hard to stop worrying when we are stressed. However, these negative thoughts can turn into a habit and trigger anxiety or panic attacks. Besides, sometimes they have nothing to do with reality or they are small issues that can be easily resolved. I remember worrying about snowstorms a lot because I did not want to be absent from my job. See, any bad thought, big or small, can snowball into a full-blown panic attack. Try to transform these negative thoughts into positive ones with affirmations. Running late? Just think that “everything will be fine. It is Ok to be late once in a while”.
Have a light dinner
Eating too much in the evening can give you nightmares. Besides, we suggest you stay away from sugary, processed, fermented, caffeinated, and alcoholic products which also play a role in your panic attacks. Adding fruits and vegetables to your diet will help you beat your panic attacks as they are packed with the necessary vitamins and minerals.
Have a warm shower or bath before going to sleep
Warm water will help you sleep better. It relaxes the muscles and soothes your mind. I love to add lavender essential oil and Epson salts to my bath. Also, shower gels that have essential oils will work as well.
Arrange your bedroom
The American Institute of Stress suggests that doing a “bedroom makeover” will help you sleep better. Removing clutter and using lighter colors such as whites, blues, greens, and beiges make your room more calming which can help you relax. In addition, make sure your mattress offers you good support and pillows are comfortable enough. Memory foam pillows and mattress toppers can make your bed much more inviting to sleep on.
Now you have learned how to stop panic attacks at night. Making a few changes in your lifestyle, such as staying active and eating healthier will definitely help control and eventually stop them. At first, it will be hard but if you follow the above suggestions regularly you will experience an improvement.
Keep in mind that untreated panic attacks can affect your normal life. The longer you have them the more intense and frequent they become.
Some people can experience a panic attack in the workplace. If this is your case, our article “How to handle a panic attack at work. Yes, you can do it” contains valuable information to help you control your panic attacks.
B.L.A. is a web developer/designer and writer who enjoys country life in western Pennsylvania, USA along with her husband C.C.A, who is also a contributor, co-author, and editor.
Check out their other blog SmartAroundyourWrist.com.