If you regularly can’t get to sleep at night then you already know just how frustrating and traumatic nocturnal panic attacks and anxiety can be. Insomnia is either caused by the mind being preoccupied with worry and/or physical discomfort. As an anxiety sufferer you can be pretty sure it is your worries that are keeping you awake at night. Night time panic attacks are very common with as many as half of panic attack sufferers having experienced them at some time.
There are three different types of insomnia defined by the period of the night in which they occur. Some people can fall asleep no problem at all but will wake up frequently during the night (Middle Insomnia) or too early (Late Insomnia), whilst other people with insomnia are unable to get to sleep at all (Early Insomnia).
Nocturnal panic attacks are experienced upon awakening during the night. Research has shown that they are rarely caused by bad dreams as nocturnal panic attacks usually occur during the early phases of sleep before the REM dreaming phase begins.
The symptoms of nocturnal panic attacks can often be worse than those that occur during the day. This is because they are usually preceded by sleep apnea which is a sleeping disorder where the person experiences difficult breathing whilst asleep. This can increase the heart rate and blood flow which can lead to anxiety causing the person to awake in a state of panic.
You can use Joe Barry’s “One Move” technique from the Panic Away book when you awaken with a nocturnal panic attack to significantly reduce your anxiety levels. It can be difficult to fall back to sleep after you have woken up in state of panic and anxiety. It can be very helpful to keep a journal by your bedside. If you use your journal to write down what you are feeling and continue to do so for a while you will find that it becomes boring. The idea is that your active racing mind is calmed down by the boredom until your mind and body just want to go back to sleep. It doesn’t matter if you cannot think of anything to write just write anything even if it doesn’t make any sense.
It’s best to stay in bed if you wake up having a nocturnal panic attack as getting out of bed will send signals to your brain that you intend to wake up when you really just want to go back to sleep again. Lack of sleep leads to the body and mind receiving insufficient rest that can you make you more prone to becoming anxious again. If you don’t get enough sleep during the night then this increases the chances of you becoming anxious during the day.
If you find yourself regularly suffering from nocturnal panic attacks you should be sure not to drink any caffeine contain beverages such as tea and coffee late at night. Alcohol can interfere with natural sleeping patterns so try to limit you alcohol intake. Also try to restrict the amount of sugar in your diet and eliminate artificial sweeteners such as Aspartame. There is a particularly nasty chemical food additive that gets added to a lot of processed foods these days that can cause many unpleasant symptoms. This is called MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) and is best avoided.