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Panic Attack Symptoms at Night: How To Deal With It


Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night feeling like you’re having trouble breathing, your heart is beating rapidly, and your mind is racing? If so, you might have had a nocturnal panic attack. These attacks can be so overwhelming that you can feel alone and powerless in the dark. 

However, the good news is that you are not alone. Millions of Americans have panic attacks yearly, many of which happen at night. Here, in this article, we’ll look into the root causes of these panic attack symptoms at night, how to identify them, and most importantly, how to deal with them with the help of a professional mental health therapist when they occur.

So, if you’re tired of these constant panic attack symptoms at night and looking for ways to take control of your anxiety, read on!

What are panic attacks, and why are they happening?

A panic attack is a sudden, seemingly uncontrollable episode of extreme anxiety or worry. Often include physical signs including sweating, shaking, a racing heart, and breathlessness. Many things, such as stress, trauma, or fear, can cause panic attacks. They can sometimes happen seemingly out of nowhere, leaving the individual feeling frightened and perplexed. 

Panic attacks can happen regularly for some people; they only have one or two in their lifetime. No matter how regularly they happen, panic attacks can be exhausting and cause further problems in daily life. Learning how to handle panic attacks begins with understanding what triggers them.

Is Nocturnal Panic Attacks different from Normal panic attacks ?

Yes, as per a study conducted by NIH, there are a few significant differences between nocturnal and regular panic attacks. Although nocturnal panic attacks happen while you are sleeping and can be especially disturbing since they can suddenly wake you up, both forms involve intense sensations of fear or anxiety. However, the signs of a nocturnal panic attack, which can include sweating, trembling, and a sense of impending doom, may be distinct from those seen during the day.

Panic attack symptoms at night can also be challenging to identify and diagnose, as the person experiencing the attack may not be fully conscious or aware of what is happening. Due to this, the person may feel confused and disorientated, and it can also cause the individual to feel like they are going crazy or losing control.

It's essential to remember that the underlying causes that lead to nighttime panic attacks are similar to those that contribute to daytime panic attacks. They can be brought on by stress, trauma, or phobias. They can be managed with several strategies, such as therapy, medication, and lifestyle changes. An appropriate diagnosis and individualized mental health treatment plan can be created if you speak with a primary care provider about your panic attack episodes at night.

Are there any specific early signs to identify and avoid panic attack symptoms at night?


There are a few common triggers with which one can identify and help someone with a panic attack, whether or not these are episodes of panic attacks that happen at night or day. These signs may vary from person to person, but some common ones include the following:

  • Increased heart rate: Before a panic attack, your heart rate could start to rise; therefore, paying attention to your body's signals is essential.
  • Changes in breathing: Before a panic attack, you could notice your breathing becoming shallower or faster.
  • Muscle tension: Your muscles, especially those in your chest and abdomen, may feel tense.
  • Feeling on edge: You might feel more anxious or angry than usual, as well as though something terrible is about to happen.
  • Changes in sleep patterns: If you find yourself unable to get or stay asleep, this could be a possible trigger to a nocturnal panic episode.

Practicing relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation, or progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce feelings of anxiety and prevent panic attacks from occurring. Suppose you continue to experience panic attacks at night despite these efforts. In that case, it's essential to find the right mental health therapist with whom you can discuss and find solutions and possible treatment options to heal.

What Are The Causes Of Nocturnal Panic Attacks?


Panic attack symptoms at night can have many different and complex reasons. Following are some typical causes of these attacks that may be involved:

Genetics: Certain people may be more prone to having panic attacks due to a genetic component that panic attacks may have.

Psychological factors: Individuals who have earlier struggled with anxiety or depression symptoms may be more prone to nocturnal panic episodes. These attacks might also be brought on by emotional trauma or significant life changes.

Medical conditions: Panic attacks at night can result from certain medical disorders, such as sleep apnea, which can disturb sleep. Other diseases like heart disease or thyroid issues can cause panic episodes.

Substance use: Alcohol, caffeine, and nicotine use are among the substances that might cause panic attacks. These attacks can also result when stopping specific drugs, prescriptions, or withdrawal.

Sleep disruptions: Sleep disturbances, such as sleep apnea, insomnia, or restless leg syndrome, can cause nocturnal panic attacks.

The first step in creating effective treatment plans for nocturnal panic attacks is understanding their underlying causes. Discussing your symptoms and creating a specialized treatment plan with a healthcare provider if you have these attacks is essential. 

This could involve treatment, a change in lifestyle, or a mix of these strategies. Nocturnal panic attacks can be controlled and overcome with the proper support and care.

Are Sleep Terrors Another Term for Nocturnal Panic Attacks?

No, nocturnal panic attacks are not also known as sleep terrors. While both panic attacks and night terrors can happen while you're asleep and induce severe fear and anxiety, they are essentially two separate disorders with different traits. 

A form of parasomnia known as night terrors, sleep terrors often happen in the early morning hours while a person is in a deep non-REM sleep. They are accompanied by abrupt awakenings during which the individual may scream, thrash around, and display symptoms of anxiety or extreme terror, including sweat and a racing heart. Nightmares, which happen during REM sleep and are frequently accompanied by vivid dreams, are different from sleep terrors.

On the other hand, the quick feelings of terror or fear that follow nocturnal panic attacks happen while you're dreaming. They're also accompanied by physical symptoms like sweating, trembling, and a fast heartbeat. These attacks can be especially frightening because they might abruptly awaken a person and leave them disoriented or confused.

While sleep terrors and nocturnal panic attacks are different conditions, they can disrupt sleep and cause significant distress. If you are experiencing either of these conditions, it's essential to speak with a healthcare professional to discuss your symptoms and develop a personalized treatment plan.

What are the effective treatment methods for nocturnal panic attacks?


Several effective treatment methods for nocturnal panic attacks can help manage symptoms and improve quality of life. Here are some of the most commonly used approaches:

Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): CBT is a form of talk therapy that can assist you in recognizing and altering negative thought patterns and actions that cause panic attacks. Due to its ability to teach you coping mechanisms and relaxation techniques when you awaken feeling concerned, CBT therapists can be accommodating when dealing with panic attack symptoms at night.

Lifestyle changes: Adopting lifestyle changes like cutting back on caffeine, abstaining from alcohol and smoking, and maintaining a healthy sleep routine might lower the risk of panic attack symptoms at night. Regular exercise and relaxation practices like yoga or meditation can also assist in reducing anxiety levels in general.

Exposure therapy: Through exposure therapy, you are gradually exposed to circumstances or triggers with higher chances of panic episodes. This can reduce the likelihood of panic attacks by helping you tolerate specific triggers.

These are just a few treatment and therapy approaches by which one can effectively learn to manage these ongoing panic attack symptoms at night. However, finding the right therapist and finalizing which treatment would be best for you is up to your needs and preferences. So, before jumping to conclusions, always take time to research, check on your preferences, and then only get yourself scheduled for an appointment.

How To Cope with panic attack symptoms at night ?

By deciding to make a treatment plan with the help of therapy or counseling, you are almost halfway through the coping process. However, we have compiled a few other relevant self-care methods to deal with these panic attack symptoms at night.

  • Practice relaxation techniques: Deep breathing, continuous muscle relaxation, and meditation are all methods that can help you calm your mind and reduce anxiety. To assist in managing the mind and better sleep, try putting these strategies into practice before bed.
  • Create a calming bedtime routine: Create a bedtime routine that helps relax and wind down. This could involve relaxing activities like taking a warm bath, reading, or listening to music. Before going to bed, stay away from stressful or stimulating activities.
  • Use positive self-talk: Negative ideas and beliefs are frequently experienced during panic attacks. Try to use self-talk that is healthy to remove these thoughts. Remind yourself that the emotions and feelings you are going through are passing and temporary.
  • Seek support: Call on your loved ones, close friends, or a medical expert for help. It can make you feel less alone and more in control to talk to someone about your experiences.

Remember, coping with anxiety or stress and panic attack symptoms at night takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself and continue to seek support and treatment. With the right strategies in place, it is possible to manage and overcome nocturnal panic attacks.

To Sum It Up-

It can feel frightening and overwhelming to have a panic attack at night, but it's important to remember that you're not alone. There are ways to manage and get over nocturnal panic attacks, which are everyday experiences. 

By reaching out to a professional mental health therapy service, practicing relaxation techniques, and making lifestyle changes such as getting enough sleep and reducing stress, you can always regain control over your panic attack symptoms at night.

At Lifebulb, our skilled mental health and stress management therapists can guide you in multiple ways to help you overcome this constant feeling of fear and anxiety. So, grab that phone and contact us now to schedule an appointment at the earliest.

Frequently Asked Questions

Panic attacks are sudden and intense feelings of fear and anxiety. Panic attacks at night can cause various symptoms, such as sweating, rapid heart rate, difficulty breathing, dizziness, and intense fear or worry.

Panic attacks at night can be caused by a variety of factors such as stress, anxiety, trauma, genetics, or a medical condition. Changes in sleeping patterns, such as sleep deprivation, can also increase the risk of experiencing panic attacks at night.

Various techniques can help manage panic attacks at night, such as deep breathing exercises, progressive muscle relaxation, and cognitive-behavioral therapy. Practicing good sleep hygiene, such as avoiding caffeine and electronics before bed, can reduce the risk of panic attacks at night.

If you are experiencing frequent panic attacks at night, seeking professional help is essential. A healthcare professional can help diagnose any underlying medical conditions and recommend appropriate treatment options, such as counseling or therapy.

While panic attacks at night cannot always be prevented, managing stress and anxiety through techniques such as exercise, meditation, and therapy can help reduce the risk of experiencing panic attacks at night. Practicing good sleep hygiene can also help reduce the likelihood of experiencing panic attacks at night.

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