Nocturnal Panic Attacks

Can You Have A Panic Attack While Sleeping?

Unfortunately for some, nocturnal panic attacks are all too real.

Insomnia can leave you feeling tired and stressed all day.

But night time panic can take your distress to another level.

You experience all the symptoms of a day time attack, with the added stressor of confusion when ripped out of sleep.

This frightening event can be very disruptive to your life, and its causes are still little understood.


Treatments are available right now to break the panic cycle.

Scientists and health practitioners have come up with various options.

Medications are available but need strict supervision by your doctor.

Doctors can supply you with specific antidepressants.

Another group of drugs found to offer effective treatment, are the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI)

Targetted forms of psychotherapy also can bring relief from night panic symptoms.

But it pays to first test a natural method, like the successful program developed in Ireland by Barry McDonagh.

You will find modifying behavior, rather than reaching straight away for medication, is often very helpful.

Progressive muscle relaxation techniques and meditation also will help you face situations that otherwise bring on anxiety attacks.

Nocturnal panic attacks often lack an obvious trigger.

nocturnal panic attacks
night panic

You might experience an episode after awakening from a nightmare.

However, much scientific evidence points to dreams not playing a major role.

Polysomnographia (sleep records) show that night panic often happens during the initial sleep cycle.

Attacks are more prevalent during the rapid eye movement (REM) phase.

This is usually the time you do your dreaming or have nightmares which are remembered on awakening.

It is not unusual to have episodes of insomnia and then become irritable and frustrated as a result.

All you might need are some tips on changing your bedtime habits.

But if you wake with fright, in a lather of sweat, you must find a method to control your anxiety.

Take an inventory of your caffeine and alcohol intake, your brain might handle them as well as you thought.

There are also foods that cause anxiety and others that help.


What are the symptoms of panic attacks at night?


  • Like an anxiety attack during the day, you could become clammy with perspiration.
  • Some of us might experience heart palpitations and trembling.
  • Breathing can become difficult and you exhibit shortness of breath.
  • Others could suffer facial flushes or a chilly feeling.
  • A choking sensation, or difficulty in swallowing can increase the panic.
  • One common sensation is chest pain.
  • Your stomach might react with a feeling of nausea
  • Your primary symptom could be numbness or a tingling.
  • You might also feel overwhelmed by a sense of doom.
  • On awakening, you could be left with a foggy feeling.


Night panic attacks impact on all your senses.

They are felt physically, emotionally and all levels of your awareness.

This frightening experience can cause a major upheaval to your life.

The actual panic attack usually subsides fairly quickly.

But it’s the resultant heightened anxiety and other symptoms that can linger.

Apart from daytime fatigue, many sufferers report a general air of detachment.

This depersonalization feels like you are trapped in a bad dream.

It’s like being outside your skin and observing yourself from a different perspective.

You get out of touch with yourself and what is going on around you.

Fears rise that you are having a heart attack, or even going insane.


So, what are the causes of night panic attacks?


Nocturnal panic attacks are like a sucker punch. You don’t see them coming.

This is why the experience is even worse than a daytime attack.

You are torn out of sleep and often don’t know why.

The resultant feeling of dread and associated physical symptoms, makes returning to sleep difficult.

Bedtime becomes becomes a reason to become anxious, and the start of a vicious circle.

Obvious triggers are difficult to get a fix on.


Some triggers could be:


Breathing difficulties, like obstructive sleep apnea can actually cut you off from air for a protracted period.

You might wake up with a start after a sense of suffocation.

This alone can leave you in a panic.

Hyperventilation, is another breathing disorder which can lead to panic attacks.

It is a very common disorder, usually the result of general anxiety and stress.

This is not normally a problem when sleeping.

But you need to learn how to control anxiety during the day to avoid entrenching poor breathing habits.

Gastric reflux, known as GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease) is one I can relate to.

You wake to a feeling of choking panic as the acid from your stomach surges up to your throat.

It’s like a burning, drowning sensation.

Panic sets in as you struggle to breathe and clear your throat.

This condition can convince you of a pending heart attack.


Mental and emotional disorders.


Nocturnal fear might be just a symptom of your generalized (GAD) or social anxiety disorder (SAD).

Night panic can be the result of conditions such as the full range of phobia.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common culprits.

Some experience night panic attacks brought on by depression, bipolar and personality disorders.

Many suffer panic attacks because of substance abuse, or side effects from medication.


Your way of thinking could cause panic attacks.


A visit to your doctor might reveal some clues as to your anxiety attacks at night.

You might be referred to a psychotherapist, which can be just as effective as medication on its own.

Try the long established Panic Away program for online help in the privacy of your home.

Similarly, cognitive behavioral therapy can redorder thinking patterns, even in children with panic disorder.

This type of treatment might involve group sessions, individual or partner involved meetings.

You could always try the online method if social anxiety is part of your particular problem.


Learn simple self-help techniques to get to sleep.

night panic
sleep technique


Don’t beat yourself up about the occasional sleepless night.

Avoid getting up each time you find yourself awake for some time.

Just lying there and letting your thoughts wander, can help.

The point is not to let your frustration become the focal point of your thoughts.

It’s the anger and annoyance that robs you of your sleep.

Always have a book handy. Even the most enjoyable book will eventually make you drowsy.

Go out for a walk or try some other physical activity before bedtime.

Tiring yourself out physically will bring on sleep a lot quicker than if you have been sitting down all day.


Daytime worries can lead to a panic attack cycle.


A common scenario happens after a typical stressful day.

You seem to put the worries behind you as you drift off to sleep later that night.

But without obvious reason, such as a nightmare, you jerk awake in a panic.

Your subconscious mind has remained active despite you dropping off to sleep.

It’s these unwanted thoughts that can lead to nocturnal panic attacks.

You worry that you will be too tired the next day to function properly at work.

Or you start to panic about a long driving trip, tired before you start.

Soon you become anxious every time bedtime nears.

It’s important not to delay, and take action now by seeing your doctor, or get some online help from Barry Donagh’s Panic Away program.























Be Sociable, Share!