What is a nighttime panic attack?
He nocturnal panic attack It is what we know as a panic or anxiety attack, which occurs while the person is sleeping, waking them up with the characteristic symptoms of it. So we can say that its nature is the same as that of a panic attack, only that the only thing that changes is the moment in which it appears: while we are sleeping, both at the beginning of the dream, as well as throughout it and at the end.
How does a nocturnal panic attack manifest itself?
The panic attack, therefore, is a sudden awakening in a state of intense fear and discomfort that is accompanied by physiological and cognitive symptoms (thoughts) the same or similar to those of a panic attack, only that nighttime panic attacks occur spontaneous and unpredictable.
Some of the physiological symptoms are:
- Difficulties breathing.
- Choking sensation.
- Chest pain or discomfort.
The most common cognitive symptoms are:
- Affraid to die.
- Feeling of going crazy.
- Fear of losing control.
Who can have a panic attack at night?
The people who have panic attacks during the day they are more likely to experience nocturnal panic attacks. People who have a great psychological and emotional pressure with high levels of stress or have experienced a traumatic eventare more likely to suffer from anxiety attack at night.
A high percentage of people with panic disorder experience nocturnal panic attacks as well. In addition, it has been seen that people who have nocturnal attacks show more fear of panic symptoms, a greater number of somatic symptoms of an anxiety attack, and often have a history of other psychopathologies.
As has been observed in multiple studies, there is comorbidity with depressive disorders, in addition to the fact that agoraphobia seems to favor these attacks. Therefore, we can say that people who experience nocturnal panic attacks tend to have more depressive and psychiatric symptoms.
People who have nighttime panic attacks have more difficulty falling asleep, and common sleep problems.
Panic attack for medical or psychological reasons
According to the literature, genetic factors they can play a very important role, even though panic disorder can appear without any family history. It seems that biological factors could be a crucial aspect in the nocturnal anxiety attackssince they have neurophysiological components.
This is so since there is a dysfunction in the autonomic nervous system. On the other hand, the psychological factors (cognitive) can be an initial stimulus for daytime panic attacks. Factors such as stress, major changes in life or a traumatic event, among others, can cause nocturnal anxiety attacks.
It has been observed that nocturnal panic attacks have a strong connection with respiratory symptoms. freediving It poses a greater danger for the nocturnal panic attack.
On the other hand, we find other pathologies that are connected with these attacks, such as hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism, and reflux.
How to manage a night panic attack?
- When you’ve just had a panic attack while you’re sleeping, the chance of going back to sleep is very low. There is always the option to try, but do not extend the attempt in time, because the only thing that will bring will be frustration. Get up, get out of bed, wash your face, drink a glass of water, do any task that isn’t stimulating like tidying up, brushing your teeth… in short, anything activity that does not keep our brain active or require a high level of concentration.
- Learn to chill out It is the first step when we talk about anxiety. start/learn relaxation techniques for both the moment in which we suffer a panic attack and at bedtime. The conscious breathing can also be of great help.
- We have to work the panic. The best response is one that is based on acceptance and observation of oneself. We must find out the origin of our emotional problems or worries. Definitely, the origin of anxiety.
- The ideal is to manage the emotional world hand in hand with a mental health professional, that can provide/teach us personal coping techniques or tools. As the empirical literature has shown, online therapy is recommended for the treatment of anxiety, and therefore it is a good option for the treatment of nocturnal panic attacks.
- The physical activity It is a good regulator of anxiety. Leading an active life helps regulate anxiety. Also, if the physical activity is in nature, it will have more regulatory power. Any activity that involves connection with natureIt is a relaxing activity.
- Edlund, MJ, McNamara, ME, & Millman, RP (1991). Sleep apnea and panic attacks. Comprehensive psychiatry, 32(2), 130-132.
- Lopes, FL, Nardi, AE, Nascimento, I., Valença, AM, & Zin, WA (2002). Nocturnal panic attacks. Archives of neuro-psychiatry, 60, 717-720.
- Sarísoy, G., Böke, Ö., Arík, AC, & Åžahin, AR (2008). Panic disorder with nocturnal panic attacks: symptoms and coexisting conditions. European Psychiatry (Spanish Ed.), 15(7), 354-360.