The short answer is yes, you absolutely can have a panic attack in your sleep. I know this from experience, as I suffer from panic attacks both during sleep and just before getting to sleep. It’s also a known fact that you can have a panic attack in your sleep. They are known as nocturnal panic attacks.
Most nocturnal panic attacks are not caused by dreams. The panic attacks happen during an early stage of sleep rather than the dream stage. Usually people who suffer from panic attacks during the day are more likely to suffer nocturnal panic attacks.
What Happens During A Nocturnal Panic Attack?
The symptoms of a panic attack in your sleep are no different to the symptoms you experience when you have a panic attack during the day. These symptoms include:
Sweating or chills
Shaking or trembling
Feeling dizzy, light headed or faint
Tightness in the chest and throat
Feeling disconnected from yourself or from reality
Usually the symptoms will subside after a matter of minutes. It’s important to remember that a panic attack will not harm you and it will pass.
Sometimes it can be difficult getting back to sleep after a panic attack. Although the symptoms have settled, there is still a lingering fear of having another panic attack.
My Personal Experience
I used to load up on Valium and Seroquel before going to bed, trying to knock myself out so I wouldn’t have a panic attack either during my sleep or before getting to sleep. A lot of the time I would end up staying up very late, as I wanted to be on the verge of sleep before going to bed. I didn’t like the time between going to bed and falling asleep, as it was just me and my thoughts, which wasn’t pretty.
I managed to turn all of that around with the help of Panic Away. I no longer have a fear of panic attacks during the night or at any time, and my general anxiety is much lower than it used to be. I’ve even stopped taking medication at night to try to help the situation. I wouldn’t say my sleep is perfect and there are still some nights where it takes me a little while to get to sleep, but this doesn’t bother me at all anymore. If you would like to learn more about Panic Away and see if it can help you, then click here to read my full review.
What Causes Panic Attacks At Night?
It is not known exactly what causes panic attacks, but it is known that there are underlying issues which may make you more likely to experience a panic attack.
Stress – while anxiety and panic attacks are not the same thing, being excessively anxious can definitely lead to having a panic attack.
Genetics – If you have a family history of panic attacks or anxiety, then you may be at greater risk of suffering from panic attacks.
Life situations – If you are under a great deal of stress either in your personal life or your work situation, then you may be more likely to have panic attacks.
History – If you have ever had a panic attack, you know how bad it feels. Sometimes the fear of having another one can actually lead to it happening. That fear of having a panic attack can create extra stress and anxiety, which can lead to more panic attacks. Also, if you are someone who suffers from anxiety your risk of having a panic attack will be increased.
How To Prepare Yourself To Get A Good Night’s Sleep
While you can never guarantee getting yourself a solid night’s sleep, there are some things you can do to improve your chances, or at least give yourself quality sleep for however long you manage to sleep for.
You should start by not making the assumption that you will get to sleep. Seems odd, I know. Instead you should look at each night as an opportunity to sleep. This will help to alleviate some of the pressure we put ourselves under to sleep. It’s better to just accept that you may or may not get a good night’s sleep. Prepare yourself to sleep and allocate time for it to happen, but don’t assume that it will happen. Just accept whatever happens.
The reason for looking at it in this way is that if you can accept whatever happens with your sleep, you are putting yourself under less pressure to sleep. Sometimes it is the anxiety and worry from this that causes us to not get to sleep. Sometimes the frustration at not being able to sleep actually makes it even less likely that we are going to get to sleep.
Exercising is also very helpful when it comes to sleep. There is no shortage of studies confirming that exercise leads to better sleep patterns, as well as the other health benefits that it brings. If you can tire out your body, then it is easier to tire out your mind and get a solid sleep.
Alcohol, caffeine and excess sugar should also be avoided of an evening in order to give yourself the best chance of getting a good night’s rest. These things will only make it more difficult to get a full night of sleep.
Keep a journal by your bed. For those nights when you are restless and worrying and just can not get to sleep, open up your journal and start writing. Write down what you are feeling and what worries are keeping you awake. Doing this serves two purposes. The first is that it is like a release for your mind, getting out all of your worries and fears that are keeping you awake. The second is that if you just keep writing down these worries, you will eventually get bored. This will cause your mind to want to go back to sleep. So for those two reasons, it works better the more that you write. Don’t be afraid to write page after page as it will only help you.
Something Else To Try
While you are lying there awake in your bed, think back to a time when you absolutely had to stay awake while you were tired. I am sure there are many occasions you can think of.
Now try to remember how it felt. How heavy your eyes were and how weary your body was. Every blink felt like you were getting a millisecond of sleep, your eyes were that heavy.
Next, think about now. You are in bed with absolutely no need to stay awake. You don’t have to force yourself to stay awake. You can just comfortably rest your head on your pillow and curl up and sleep. There is absolutely nothing to stay awake for. Close your eyes and remember what it was like trying to stay awake when you were so extremely tired.