What to Know About Nocturnal Panic Attacks

man suffering panic attack

It's estimated that two to three percent of the adult American population suffers from a panic disorder. And that many others suffer intermittent panic attacks during stressful periods of life.

A panic attack can happen at any time. Sometimes, they can even happen while you're sleeping.

Nocturnal panic attacks that shake you from your slumber have the same symptoms of daytime panic attacks. These include a racing heart rate, sweating, rapid breathing, chills, shortness of breath, chest pains, faintness, and a sense of doom.

Like panic attacks during the day, panic attacks at night can happen even if there's no obvious trigger. They typically only last a few minutes, but it can take a while to settle back into sleep again.

No one fully understands what causes panic attacks at night (or during the day, for that matter). But there are factors that increase the risk of having a panic attack. They include:

  • Having a family history of panic attacks
  • Undergoing major life changes or stressors like the death of a loved one or a divorce
  • Suffering from a traumatic event like a car crash
  • Having a history of childhood abuse
  • Struggling with mental health issues like depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, or post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Undergoing withdrawal from alcohol, drugs, or a medication
  • Suffering from a chronic disease
  • Smoking and ingesting too much caffeine

If left untreated, panic attacks can negatively affect your quality of life. And if you repeatedly suffer from nocturnal panic attacks, you could lose out on precious sleep and even develop a sleep disorder. For these reasons, it's important to talk to a medical professional, who can prescribe cognitive behavioral therapy, medication, or a mix of both to help you overcome a panic disorder.

There are also steps you can take to handle panic attacks at night. Experts recommend that you not fight the panic attack and instead let it run its course. After it passes, try to relax by taking deep breaths and focusing on positive thoughts. If you have trouble falling back to sleep, try doing a calming activity like reading (or listening) to a book, doing a puzzle, or listening to soothing music.

Many people who have panic attacks at night find that SleepPhones® headphones are great to have within arm's reach of bed. As the world’s most comfortable headphones for sleeping, SleepPhones® let you comfortably listen to music, nature sounds, podcasts, audio books, and more while in bed. This can be just the thing you need to come down from a nocturnal panic attack.

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