Could nocturnal panic attacks disrupt your daily life?

Panic attacks can be a terrifying thing to experience. It can leave you feeling helpless and incapacitated. In some situations, it can make the experience even more complicated to handle. Nocturnal attacks are one of those things that complicate typical panic attacks.

Nocturnal attacks happen in the middle of the night. I used to wake up with the feeling something terrifying or terrible has happened. It would be worse when I was alone in the house. The realisation that you have to deal with the fear on your own can make nighttime attacks even more frightening.

Nocturnal and Anxiety Disorder

The hard truth is that more than half of the people who suffer from these attacks also happen to have an anxiety disorder. It will become a compound anxiety disorder because you start feeling your situation is getting worse. You may wake up with symptoms such as sweating, heavy breathing, and trembling.

For some people, there may be irrational fears. For example, they may wake up frightened and think that someone has broken into the house. Others have fears such the house being on fire or feeling like someone has been watching over you while you were asleep.

I used to have these panic attacks every couple of months, probably twice or thrice a year. An attack would typically last about 10 minutes and then it would subside. However, some people worry about these attacks for a long time before they reluctantly go back to sleep.

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According to psychiatrists, the difference in how people respond to these attacks is often a manifestation of their personality or childhood experiences. Sometimes circumstances can dictate how you respond. For example, every time I woke up in a room that was dark or not properly lit and I had to find the switch, I would be more panic.

Your Day to Day Life

After the panic attacks, you may find yourself thinking about it the next day. You will find yourself wondering if it will happen again. Instead of trying to fight these thoughts just acknowledge it as a natural reaction to what happened the previous night.

Do not try too hard to suppress them. Instead, just try and shift your mind slowly back to the task at hand. These thoughts are fine as long as you do not let them cripple you. In any case, the nocturnal attacks hardly happen every night in a row. Just allow yourself to focus slowly on something else and these thoughts will disappear.


Many different factors may be responsible for all the different types of panic disorders. Some scientists believe that it could be hereditary. Another possible factor is that it is a learned response acquired probably from childhood experiences.

Similarly, there is no explicit cause for nocturnal panic attacks. Some people wonder why you should have these attacks while sleeping yet all your mind is doing is dreaming. The explanation for this could be that the subconscious mind has a way of manifesting your conscious fears while you are asleep. You subconscious may have picked up those fears and acquired similar patterns that will sometimes be triggered while you are asleep.

Nightmares can also cause one to wake up in the middle of the night with a heightened sense of fear. According to some psychologists, this often happens when the nightmare is accompanied by heavy breathing and tricks the mind into thinking that they are experiencing a real panic attack. It happens more often for people who have already experienced a panic attack in their conscious state.

Dos and Don’ts

Most of these fears are irrational. You realise at the back of your mind that there is no one trying to break into your house. I used to feel silly, and I often kept it to myself. However, this is not a good idea. It can compound the problem even further. You may not fully acknowledge you have a problem. Irrational or not, you shouldn’t be ashamed or embarrassed by it at all.

Another thing you need to avoid is going back to sleep immediately. But it does not work usually. The best thing is to find something that can distract you. You could go downstairs, get some milk or water, or you may also opt to go to the bathroom or check on the lights in your living room. The advantage with this trick is that it allows your mind to shift to other things that could genuinely distract it. Forcing yourself to think of something else does not work in most cases.

Another useful technique is to learn deep breathing exercises. When you experience an attack, there are physiological changes that will take place in the body. Deep breathing helps to bring your body back to the point of relaxation slowly. Try and avoid caffeine or alcohol. Both of these things will aggravate the problem and make it harder to recover.

Getting Help

As doctors recommended, you should seek the evaluation of a qualified health professional firstly. Unless a professional has already evaluated you, and you are only experiencing another typical attack. If someone you know experiences these attacks, you should make a point of seeking the doctor’s advice. It is important to establish that the person in question is going through a panic attack and not some other serious condition. Sometimes you may think it is a panic attack while it could be asthma, heart attack, or a serious medical problem with similar symptoms.

When you visit a doctor, they will do a diagnosis using an elimination process. The doctor will start by eliminating the most emergency conditions such as heart attacks, asthma and other conditions. And inquire you about your past medical history and the medication you’ve been taking.

The doctor may decide to give you some medication and psychotherapy treatment. Medication is not always necessary, so sometimes only psychotherapy will do. Psychotherapy is quite effective, and it will produce results within three months after the treatment.

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