Experiencing a panic attack is never fun. A panic attack in bed? It’s a life-altering experience. In the daytime, you can anticipate an oncoming panic attack. But when you’re sound asleep, signs of a nocturnal panic attack are much harder to identify!
I have experienced nocturnal panic attacks on and off for years. Waking up suddenly leaves you confused and worried as it is. Jolting out of rest with shortness of breath, tight muscles, and other nocturnal panic attack symptoms can have you mistaking it for a heart attack!
When my panic attacks in bed at night were at its worst, I started to dread sleep. Trust me; sleep is the one thing I look forward to most! I’ve learned how to lessen the frequency of nocturnal panic attacks through some lifestyle changes. Here are some preventative tips to not have an anxiety attack while sleeping and how to stop nighttime panic attacks in the moment.
How to Prevent Panic Attacks in Bed at Night
The best way to deal with panic attacks is to prevent them from happening in the first place. This gets a bit more challenging for the sleeping body.
You can’t just walk away from a potentially stressful situation or get a hold of your breath before you start hyperventilating. These are the advantages of a daytime panic attack. See, didn’t think panic attacks could get a positive spin, now, did you?
In some sports, they say that the best defense is to stay on offense. When it comes to mental health, the best offense is preventative care. Here are some tips for managing nocturnal panic attack symptoms that worked for me.
Limit Caffeine Intake
Cutting down on coffee for my anxiety was one of the best decisions I ever made. I would get so hyped up on coffee by noon that my leg would still be twitching during Jeopardy! at night.
Coffee is a stimulant that increases your heart rate and can cause jitters. These effects are due to how our body metabolizes caffeine.
Caffeine has a half-life of five hours. Yet, we can still feel the effects even longer! One study found that drinking coffee six hours before bed can disrupt one hour of sleep!
Therefore, I recommend cutting out caffeine seven hours before bed just to be safe. Your body will be less restless and unlikely to trigger a panic attack in bed.
Meditation, Yoga, and Light Exercise
Nobody knows the exact cause of nighttime panic attacks. However, nocturnal panic attacks generally occur when an individual is under stress.
When was the last time everything was peachy keen, and you experienced a panic attack? They usually occur when you have to go to the job you hate, get into a fight with a loved one, or drive in traffic. These are stressful situations, and we carry those burdens with us into the bedroom at night.
Everyday life takes a physical and mental toll on us. So, we must replenish that negative energy with positivity, hormones, and activities. You can achieve all three of these through meditation, yoga, and light exercise.
Research shows that mindfulness meditation helps Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). These benefits will carry over into your sleep, when you essentially re-enter a meditative state. It’s like meditation is the bridge between the woken and rested mind.
Light exercise is essential for the body and mind because it produces vital hormones. Hormones, such as melatonin and serotonin, regulate our sleep-wake cycle. Therefore, exercise is a natural way to promote hormonal balance, reduce nocturnal panic attacks, and have a strong body to show for it.
With that said, you don’t want to go too hard on the body. Strenuous exercise can cause light tears to muscles and pain in your joints. That will create work for cells that should otherwise be resting.
Yoga is an excellent bridge between meditation and light exercise. You marry breath to movement to create an in-the-moment experience. By tending to the mind and body, you are less likely to experience a panic attack in bed.
As we mentioned, nocturnal panic attacks generally occur when an individual is stressed. Many of us experience stress because we don’t know how to communicate our needs. So, they go unmet, causing us subconscious anxiety at night.
Passive behaviors are usually a result of someone trying to avoid confrontation or conflict. Those who are passive tend to feel censored, misunderstood and devalued. These uncertain feelings can manifest in nocturnal panic attacks.
One study about grade school and high school students found that assertiveness training “decreases their anxiety, stress, and depression.” People with anxiety, stress, and depression, tend to have sleep issues, including anxiety attacks while sleeping. So, speak up!
Sometimes we don’t realize that our habits and mindsets are setting us up for an anxious night ahead. Journaling is an excellent tool to recognize these triggers so that we can don’t jolt awake in a panic in the middle of the night.
Take a moment every morning to jot down what you are thankful for. Fostering gratitude is like sticking your tongue out at anxiety.
With anxiety, you dwell on the negatives in life. Gratitude lets you see how you can grow from these negatives and apply these lessons to create more positives.
Also, journal your feelings when you wake up from an anxiety attack while sleeping. If you remember your dream, jot it down. You can analyze it later, look for patterns from the previous nights.
What were you feeling the moment before you woke up? Even when you’re asleep, your mind is still registering activity. You might be able to recognize signs of a nocturnal panic attack in the dream state and wake up before the symptoms worsen.
Not into writing? You’re not alone. Thankfully, there’s this handy device called a smartphone. You might even be using it to read this article. Record all of these observations to create an audio journal.
Schedule Self-Care and Relaxation
Sleep should be a stress-free experience. If it’s not, that means daytime stress is becoming too much. So, take time out of those waking hours to handle that stress.
Me-time is essential for your emotional well-being. We are pushed and pulled in so many directions that we lose sight of our goals, hobbies, and relationships.
Sit down and schedule some time for yourself a couple of times per week. Take a mini staycation where you don’t answer emails and screen your texts. Watch a show you’ve been meaning to check out, do a yoga video on YouTube, or take a hike at the trail a half-hour away you keep meaning to visit.
Doing something for yourself feels good. Don’t just go on a shopping spree. Actually nurture yourself! Partake in activities that truly fulfill you. You will feel better inside, which will help you sleep through the night panic-free.
For many, nocturnal panic attacks generally occur when an individual is feeling a sense of guilt. That guilt can be anything from letting down a loved one to not living up to your true potential to cheating on an exam. It’s as unique as the individual.
Volunteering is the ultimate form of redemption. We can’t change regrets. Instead, we can make for a better today and tomorrow. You can achieve this positivity through volunteering.
Approaching volunteering with this mindset suddenly no longer seems good-natured. It’s like we’re using volunteering as a way to stroke the ego. That may be true.
Our ego is also the annoying voice in our heads that’s fostering these nocturnal panic attacks in the first place. Sometimes the only way to fight off bad thoughts is to create good memories.
Science also backs up that doing good makes you feel good. One study found that volunteering improves the emotional and physical health of volunteers. Going to bed with a clear conscience leaves less negativity for your subconscious to play with!
How to Stop Nighttime Panic Attacks As They’re Happening
Even if you follow all of these preventative nocturnal panic attack tips, they’re still bound to happen from time to time. Don’t get lost in the hysteria and dwell on the fact that it’s happening again. Remain assertive and follow some of these tips for how to stop nighttime panic attacks.
Deep Breathing Techniques
Shortness of breath, rising blood pressure, and increased heart rate are all signs of a nocturnal panic attack. Your best method of defense against panic attacks in bed at night is your very own breath.
One meta-analysis looked at breath’s uncanny ability to biohack our emotional responses. Researchers noted, “nasal breathing is able to modulate both the autonomic system and brain activity through receptors located in the superior nasal meatus.”
The simple act of inhaling through your nose stimulates your olfactory system. This reaction influences so many factors that trigger nocturnal panic attacks, such as your body temperature, heart rate, and mood.
One method I find useful for nocturnal panic attacks is the same breathing tool I taught my anxious mother, the 4-7-8 technique.
Inhale for four seconds. Hold for seven seconds. Exhale for eight seconds. Each time, try to go deeper through your nostrils and down to your diaphragm.
Once you catch your breath, lie down. Keep thinking of your breath. However, start to tap into areas you’re holding tension mindfully.
Light-night muscle tension can also jerk the body awake and cause symptoms similar to panic attacks in bed. Try to pinpoint areas that seem constricted.
It sounds weird and all, but mentally scan your body and find tight areas. Start at the base of your head and examine your body with your mind’s eye. Breathe into any space that feels tense until the tension eases. You’ll blissfully go back to sleep and feel rejuvenated in the morning.
If you’ve been following my anxiety journey, you’ll know that I’m a huge proponent of guided meditations. Guided meditations on YouTube are free and a wonderful tool for preventing panic attacks in bed at night and going back to sleep after a panic attack in bed.
The best way to get over a nocturnal panic attack is to reclaim as much pressure sleep as you can. You fall off the horse; you get back on. Otherwise, the bad guy wins!
Guided meditations help you visualize serene sceneries that can help take your mind off the episode you just experienced. They can help you find the clarity necessary to sleep through the rest of the night.
Our endocannabinoid system also plays a significant role in our mental health. Everything on our body is made up of cells. The majority of these cells have tiny neural sensors known as cannabinoid receptors.
Whenever things are amiss in our body, such as a bacterial infection, stress-created inflammation, or a hormonal imbalance, our cannabinoid receptors pick up on it. They create quite the disturbance that it can start to influence our mental health. In turn, we can become prone to waking up from panic attacks in bed at night.
Phytocannabinoids in CBD oil calms these receptors. That’s why studies suggest CBD can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety. In fact, many people also use CBD oil to help normalize their sleep patterns.
Get Up and Walk Around
Sometimes the best way to handle a daytime panic attack is to walk away from the situation. Since most nocturnal panic attack symptoms mirror those of daytime variety, many of the things that work during the waking hours are still handy at night.
Sitting around while you have a panic attack in bed might cause you to feel more trapped. It can prolong the situation. So, get up and leave.
Do something that’s relaxing and doesn’t require a lot of mental effort. Walk around the house or cuddle with your cat on the couch. Take your dog outside and watch the stars. Put on some calming music, drink chamomile tea, and read a book of inspirational quotes.
Whatever you do, don’t go to your electronic devices or the television. For one, the blue light emitted from these devices messes up our circadian rhythm. However, the content they create also adds to the mental chatter in our brain.
Do you need to see more social media updates from people who are causing you anxiety? Is reading a headline about politics after a 3:00 am panic attack in bed going to help anything? Didn’t think so!
Once you feel calmer, try going back to bed. We all need our beauty rest, especially after such an exhausting start to the night.
I can’t express the importance of a good night’s sleep any more than I already have. We need sleep to repair our bodies and minds. Waking up from an anxiety attack while sleeping means that our daytime stress is creeping into our nighttime rest.
Unfortunately, panic causes a rise in stress-based hormones, like adrenaline and cortisol. These will cause a rapid heartbeat and an increase in temperature. Their presence will also keep us at night.
To decrease one hormone, you need to increase another. The most effective hormone for healthy sleep patterns is melatonin.
It takes a while for melatonin capsules to kick in because your body must digest the pill and absorb the nutrients. I bypass this process by spraying my way to good sleep.Tranquility Labs’ Sleep-Fast Is a melatonin spray that gets absorbed in the mouth for fast-acting and non-habit-forming benefits.
Tranquility Labs’ Sleep-Fast contains melatonin and 5-HTP, the precursor to serotonin. As we mentioned, these hormones are crucial for our sleep-wake cycle.
This fast-acting spray is also fortified with all-natural botanicals known to improve anxious behaviors, including lemon balm, chamomile, and valerian root. Just a couple of sprays, and I’m out in 20 minutes or less…with no stress!
Nocturnal Panic Attacks FAQ
There’s a lot of questions to ask about nocturnal panic attacks. They can really impede on healthy sleep patterns and trickle over into a lack of productivity the next day. So, here are some quick answers to help you make sense of an anxiety attack while sleeping.
What is a Nocturnal Panic Attack?
A nocturnal panic attack is when someone experiences a panic attack in bed at night. It comes with many of the same symptoms of a daytime anxiety attack, such as sweating, racing thoughts, and trouble breathing.
What Causes Nocturnal Panic Attacks?
There are many factors that can contribute to experiencing panic attacks in bed at night. Nocturnal panic attacks generally occur when an individual is under stress. This stress can be in the form of emotional problems, such as depression, a fight with a spouse, or financial concerns. Stressors can also be physical, such as underlying health conditions, inflammatory responses, and hormonal imbalances.
How to Stop Nocturnal Panic Attacks?
First, stop nocturnal panic attacks by preventing them. Work on your mental health during waking hours with meditation, journaling, and exercise. In the moment of a nocturnal panic attack, catch your breath. Move around and do activities that calm you. Once you’re more composed, use melatonin spray to help get back to sleep quicker.
When Do Nocturnal Panic Attacks Occur?
Nocturnal panic attacks generally occur when an individual is under stress. If you had a particularly anxiety-filled day, you are more prone to experience panic attacks in bed at night.
How Long Do Nocturnal Panic Attacks Last?
While it may seem like an eternity, nocturnal panic attacks only usually last a few minutes. The longest part is calming down and getting back to bed once the problems start. That’s why I suggest using Tranquility Labs’ Sleep-Fast and guided meditations to get back to sleep.
Stop An Anxiety Attack While Sleeping
Setting yourself up for a good night starts during the day. Learn how to handle your anxiety during the waking hours to stop having panic attacks in bed at night.
Work on your mental health through meditation, volunteering, and journaling. Carve out time for yourself and become more assertive with your needs. Lastly, cut down on the caffeine at least seven hours before bed!
If you have an anxiety attack while sleeping and wake up with a panic attack in bed, work on regaining your composure. Turn to breathing techniques. If necessary, get up and leave the bedroom and find a relaxing activity to help calm your brain.
Then, get back to sleep. If you have trouble, try using non-habit forming sleep-aids like CBD oil or Tranquility Labs’ Sleep-Fast.
- Nocturnal panic attacks generally occur when an individual is under stress
- The best way to prevent panic attacks in bed at night is to tend to your daytime mental health
- The most effective way for how to stop nighttime panic attacks is through deep-breathing techniques