Anxiety Attacks at Night

Have you ever been jolted awake by a grip of anxiety attack at night? This type of attack is commonly referred to as nocturnal or nighttime panic attack. It usually occurs with no obvious triggers in place. Just like daytime panic attack, victims of this problem experience rapid heart rate, sweating, shortness of breath, trembling, hyperventilation, sense of impending doom, chills, or flushing. Although the anxiety attack may only last for a few minutes, it may take you some time to get back to sleep.

What Causes Anxiety Attacks at Night?

The causes of night panic attack include but not limited to the following.

  • Genetics. People are more likely to experience the problem if a member of the family has it.
  • Vitamin B Deficiency. Research has shown that people with low levels of vitamin B tend to have anxiety attacks.
  • Chemical Imbalance. The body is composed of various neurotransmitters. When their balance is disturbed, it may lead to fear, depression, anxiety, causing panic attacks at night.
  • Obstructive Sleep Apnea. This is a situation where the airway is blocked, which causes lack of breath or hypoventilation. However, it is important to note that people with obstructive sleep apnea often wake up and go back to sleep after the attack without realizing the problem. Nevertheless, some people hyperventilate and this contributes to panic attacks at night.
  • Acid Reflux. Acid reflux manifests itself with various symptoms which may include chest pains, a pressure in the chest and difficulty in breathing. In some cases, it may lead to hyperventilation, night sweats, and eventually anxiety attacks at night.
  • Hyperventilation Disorder. This is a chronic problem, which affects many people who experience a panic attack at night. Stress and anxiety are the main contributors. Some people who have very poor breathing habits are prone to hyperventilation.
  • Frequent Nightmares. Frightful nightmares may wake you up from a good sleep and lead to anxiety attacks.
  • Medications. Sometimes, this problem may attribute to certain medications administered to the patients.
  • Sleep-Related Seizures. Some people experience seizures when they are sleeping. This type of seizures often begins at the temporal lobe and then gives a sudden feeling of panic, fear, or doom. 
  • Panic-Stricken Thoughts. While lying on the bed, people tend to reflect on the events that occurred during the day. Depending on the types of experiences, some people may experience an anxiety attack during sleep.
  • Improper Consumption. Taking drugs, alcohol, coffee, and tea, especially if you are prone to panic attack, may lead to anxiety attacks at night. Certain foods such as wheat and sugar can contribute to a panic attack for a few people.

What to Do After Waken Up by Anxiety Attacks

When you experience an anxiety attack at night, you should not force yourself to ignore the symptoms, which will lead to failure, frustration, and aggravated symptoms. You can stay calm and remind yourself that it is just a panic attack and will not threaten your life. Here are more things to do after the attack.

1.   Deep Breathing

Slow deep breaths are essential in calming the system again after an attack. You should breathe in through the nose and exhale with the mouth as you focus on the sensation of air flowing out of the system. Moreover, you can have soothing essential oils such as chamomile and lavender oils by your bed, which will help you relax.

2.   Progressive Muscle Relaxation

This can be done by tensing up and relaxing each muscle group in the body. You can begin with the toes and move towards the head. Visualize a peaceful place and try to feel completely at ease as you relax the muscles. 

3.   Panic Sheet

This is especially essential to people who experience frequent panic attacks. Keeping a sheet beside your bed will help you monitor and adjust to any prevailing conditions. You can also include information that will guide you on how to overcome the anxiety attacks at night.

4.   Activity

In some cases, after a bout of a panic attack you may be feeling energized and ready to do something. In such situations, you can get up and do something in the house, such as arranging the shelves, cleaning or sorting some items. After such an activity, you will feel sleep coming back. However, it is important to note that you should avoid switching the TV or computers on because the devices will only inhibit your sleep.

How to Treat Night Time Anxiety Attacks

The treatment of nighttime anxiety attacks may vary from one person to another. You can combine medications and self-care techniques to reduce frequency and manage the symptoms. Anti-anxiety medications may be prescribed to help calm the nerves. The common techniques include:

  • Understanding the cause of the panic attack
  • Looking for ways to deal with the symptoms
  • Doing activities that calm the system such as tai chi or meditation
  • Getting into a regular sleeping pattern, especially for people who have poor sleeping habits

Cognitive behavioral therapy is often recommended in some cases – the therapy has a high success rate in dealing with anxiety attacks. The therapy focuses on the individual's thought and behavior process. If your attacks are caused by acid reflux or obstructive sleep apnea, seek medical treatments. A balanced diet, less fatty, overly spicy, processed food and moderate alcohol, and regular exercise can also help manage the condition.

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