Panic attacks at night – treatments and management strategies

Panic attacks at night represent a major challenge for many individuals, disrupting sleep and seriously affecting the quality of life. These episodes of intense anxiety usually occur unexpectedly, often waking the person from sleep with symptoms such as palpitations, profuse sweating, difficulty breathing, and an overwhelming sense of fear or impending death. Unlike daytime panic attacks, nocturnal panic attacks can leave a person confused and disoriented, amplifying the feeling of vulnerability.

Treating nocturnal panic attacks requires a holistic approach, combining both immediate management techniques and long-term strategies. First of all, it is essential to consult a mental health specialist, who can recommend cognitive-behavioral therapies (CBT), considered effective in dealing with these episodes. CBT helps identify and change thoughts and behaviors that contribute to anxiety.

In addition to therapy, medication may be an option for some patients, with anxiolytic drugs and antidepressants often being prescribed to reduce the frequency and intensity of panic attacks. However, these drugs must be administered under strict medical supervision, due to potential side effects and the risk of addiction.

Home management strategies include relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, meditation and yoga, which can help calm the mind and reduce stress. Also, a healthy lifestyle, with a balanced diet, regular physical exercises and avoiding caffeine and alcohol consumption, can play a significant role in preventing nocturnal panic attacks.

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  1. What is a panic attack at night?
  2. How common are panic attacks at night?
  3. What is the difference between panic attacks at night and night terrors?
  4. Symptoms and causes of panic attacks at night
  5. What are the risk factors for panic attacks at night?
  6. Panic attack diagnosis and tests on our time
  7. Management and treatment of panic attacks in sleep
  8. How are nighttime panic attacks managed or treated?
  9. What are the complications of panic attacks at night?
  10. Prevention of panic attacks at night
  11. What is the outlook for people who have panic attacks at night?

 

What is a panic attack at night?

A panic attack at night is a sudden feeling of fear that wakes you up from sleep. You wake up in a state of panic, experiencing physical reactions such as palpitations, sweating and breathing difficulties (gafait).

How common are panic attacks at night?

About 11% of Americans experience a panic attack each year. Up to 7 out of 10 people with panic disorder (recurrent panic attacks) also have panic attacks at night.

What is the difference between panic attacks at night and night terrors?

Night terror (pavor nocturnus) is a disruptive sleep disorder (parasomnia). A person experiencing a night terror has symptoms similar to those of a panic attack at night. A key difference is awareness.

People who experience night terrors are often not aware of what is happening to them. They may seem awake – they may scream, jump out of bed and run around. In reality, they are asleep and it is difficult (and often not recommended) to wake them up. When the night terror ends, the person falls asleep again and may not remember the event in the morning. Children are more prone to night terrors, although adults can have them too.

A panic attack at night wakes you up. You are aware of feelings of fear and other symptoms of a panic attack. It may take a long time to fall asleep again. Panic attacks at night mainly affect teenagers and adults.

Symptoms and causes of panic attacks at night

What causes panic attacks at night?

Experts do not know why some people experience panic attacks. Something affects the way the brain and nervous system perceive and process fear and anxiety. Most panic attacks happen during the day, usually when a non-threatening situation triggers a panic response. Similarly, panic attacks at night have no basis in the situation.

What are the risk factors for panic attacks at night?

You are more likely to have panic attacks at night if you have them during the day. Other risk factors include:

  • Anger or hostility problems.
  • Anxiety disorder.
  • Insomnia or sleep apnea.
  • Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
  • Substance use disorders, including alcohol use disorder.

What are the symptoms of a panic attack in sleep?

Panic attacks at night cause the same symptoms as those that occur during the day. However, research suggests that people who have panic attacks at night may have more severe respiratory symptoms. They may struggle to catch their breath (dyspnoea) or feel like they are suffocating or having a heart attack.

Signs of a panic attack in the middle of the night include:

  • Chest pain.
  • Intense feeling of terror.
  • Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis).
  • Fast heart rate.
  • Tingling or numbness in the fingers or toes.
  • Shaking or shaking.
  • How long do panic attacks last at night?

The symptoms of a nighttime panic attack usually peak in less than 10 minutes and then subside. It may take a while to fall asleep again.

Panic attack diagnosis and tests on our time

How are nighttime panic attacks diagnosed?

Your health care provider may order tests to rule out health problems such as heart disease and thyroid disease that cause symptoms similar to panic attacks. If they do not find a physical cause, the specialist doctor can diagnose the panic attacks at night based on the symptoms and risk factors.

Management and treatment of panic attacks in sleep

How can you stop a panic attack at night?

Once a panic attack begins, the only option is to let the symptoms run their course. Some people find that they can reduce the severity of an attack through deep, controlled breathing or muscle relaxation exercises. The specialist doctor can prescribe medicines to reduce the symptoms.

How are nighttime panic attacks managed or treated?

The medical specialist can recommend a combination of drugs and therapy to stop panic attacks at night. These are the same treatments for daytime panic attacks.

Treatments for nighttime panic attacks include:

Antidepressants and anxiolytic drugs can reduce the frequency and severity of panic attacks. Panic attacks can disappear completely. These drugs can take up to six to eight weeks to work fully.

Benzodiazepines can quickly reduce severe symptoms, but these drugs are addictive. You can develop a physical tolerance, so that it no longer works as well. It can be very difficult to stop using them. Examples include alprazolam (Xanax™) and clonazepam (Klonopin™).

Beta-blockers , such as propranolol (Inderal™), can reduce the physical symptoms of a panic attack. Your healthcare provider may prescribe these medications to take when you feel a panic attack coming on.

Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of psychotherapy (talk therapy). You will meet with a licensed counselor or psychologist who helps to identify the triggers of panic attacks. With CBT, you learn to change the way you think about and respond to these triggers. Over time, panic attacks decrease and may disappear completely.

What are the complications of panic attacks at night?

Waking up in a panic is very disruptive to a good sleep. Worrying about having a panic attack at night can make you go to bed late or lead to insomnia.

Lack of sleep affects health in many ways. It can lead to:

  • Anxiety and depression.
  • Difficulty concentrating or remembering things.
  • Increased stress and irritability.
  • More frequent daytime panic attacks.
  • Poor performance at work or school.
  • Weight gain.

Prevention of panic attacks at night

Can you prevent panic attacks at night?

These measures can reduce the risk of having panic attacks:

Eat a healthy diet, reduce caffeine consumption and exercise regularly.

Find healthy ways to manage stress, such as meditation, tai chi, or calling a friend.

Talk to your doctor before taking herbal supplements or over-the-counter medications. Certain products can increase anxiety.

What is the outlook for people who have panic attacks at night?

Panic attacks are treatable. Most people get relief from their symptoms through therapy and medication. Once you have daytime panic attacks under control, the frequency and severity of nighttime panic attacks should improve.

 

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