Panic Attack Signs And Symptoms
The signs and symptoms of a panic attack develop abruptly and usually reach their peak within 10 minutes. They rarely last more than an hour, with most ending within 20 to 30 minutes. Panic attacks can happen anywhere and at any time. You may have one while youre in a store shopping, walking down the street, driving in your car, or even sitting on the couch at home.
Panic attack symptoms include:
- Fear of dying, losing control, or going crazy
Is it a heart attack or a panic attack?
Most of the symptoms of a panic attack are physical, and many times these symptoms are so severe that you may think youre having a heart attack. In fact, many people suffering from panic attacks make repeated trips to the doctor or the emergency room in an attempt to get treatment for what they believe is a life-threatening medical problem. While its important to rule out possible medical causes of symptoms such as chest pain, elevated heart rate, or difficulty breathing, its often panic that is overlooked as a potential causenot the other way around.
How To Sleep With Anxiety
Night time anxiety can cause you to wake up at an unusually early hour , feel like you havent had enough sleep, and then feel pressure to go back to sleep, explains Virginia Runko, PhD, a behavioral sleep medicine specialist and psychologist in Washington, D.C.
You may toss and turn as your mind dwells on your worries from the day before, then races off thinking about a crisis you cant control. If you struggle with insomnia and have anxiety, you may have a pattern of waking up unusually early and having trouble getting back to sleep.
Anxiety can happen at any time of the day, including the morning, afternoon, and at night. Typical symptoms of anxiety can include nervousness, worrying, the inability to focus, as well as trouble falling or staying asleep.
Sometimes, if you experience anxiety during the night, you may even have a nocturnal panic attack. These panic attacks have the same symptoms as a daytime attack, ranging from heart palpitations to experiencing feelings of extreme fear.
Heres everything you need to know about this type of anxiety, why it happens at night, and how to cope with it.
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Write Down Your Worries
Palacios suggests writing down your worries before you get into bed each night. Ruminating thoughts happen because we continue to go over and over things in our minds, she says.
Writing down our worries and to-dos can help free up some space in our minds, Palacios says.
Writing ones anxious thoughts down is an excellent way to disconnect from them, says Po-Chang Hsu, a physician and medical content expert at SleepingOcean, a website that reviews sleep products. Many people also find the process itself soothing, which may help them wind down and sleep better.
You can try starting a nightly journal where you write down your thoughts each night before you go to sleep.
What Are Panic Attacks
Panic attacks are sudden, unexpected episodes of intense anxiety, which can cause a variety of frightening symptoms. These include:
- Feeling out of control and disconnected from your surroundings
- Feeling faint, dizzy or light-headed
- Chest pains and shortness of breath â a tightness of the chest and feeling as though its a struggle to breathe
- A racing or pounding heart
- Numbness and tingling, for example, tingling lips and numbness in your fingers and toes
- Fluctuating body temperature feeling very hot or very cold
These symptoms can be so severe they sometimes make first time sufferers believe theyre experiencing a heart attack or a nervous breakdown. Over time, panic attacks can become more frequent, and the fear of having a panic attack becomes embedded, resulting in a vicious circle.
Night time panic attacks, also known as nocturnal panic attacks or night terrors, happen while youre asleep and wake you up, often with the same symptoms as day time panic attacks. However, while these nocturnal attacks usually only last for a few minutes, it can take a long time for you to calm down enough to go back to sleep after having one. This, coupled with worrying about whether youre going to have another panic attack, may lead to insomnia.
How Anxiety Can Affect Sleep
Lack of sleep can lead to increased chances of anxiety, but anxiety can also cause a lack of sleep. Unfortunately, the two can intertwine quite a bit, causing one to exacerbate the other.
Anxiety can have a negative effect on your bodys ability to fall asleep as your brain is in fight or flight mode, thinking of all potential outcomes for whatever is causing the anxiety. Furthermore, anticipatory anxiety and specific anxiety about sleep can lead to sleep disturbance and insomnia, which then creates a feedback loop that can make both conditions worsen. Insomnia can also make you more irritable and more worried, as your brain is not getting all the sleep it needs in order to function at normal levels.
However, its not uncommon to experience anxiety related to sleep. As Winnie Yu, a writer for WebMD noted in her article Scared to Sleep, sleep anxiety is a form of performance anxiety. Many people may stress about not getting enough sleep to function, but the stress alone of trying to sleep can cause people to sit awake for hours. Additionally, other fears such as recurring nightmares, fear of sleep apnea , and more can all lead to disturbed sleep.
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When Anxiety Is Present
Turn the Clock Around
This may seem like a painfully simple tip, but it goes a long way. When experiencing anxiety, you may have the tendency to look at the time over and over again. Although this may seem relatively innocent, it can cause more stress and anxiety as you worry about not getting to sleep. To help, simply put your phone in the other room and turn the clock around. Remove the temptation.
Practice Deep Breathing
The breath is intimately connected with our minds and bodies. By breathing deeply, you can physically calm the body and slow the thinking mind. Specifically, the breath affects the nervous system. By lengthening your exhale, you are engaging the parasympathetic nervous system and letting your mind and body know you are safe. Try taking a few deep breaths, making the exhalation slightly longer than the inhalation.
Do a Progressive Muscle Relaxation
When youre experiencing anxiety at night, you may notice that the body can grow tense. A progressive muscle relaxation is a practice in which you move through the body making an effort to relax each part. Anxiety BC offers a great guide for free here that I recommend. When asked for advice on dealing with any type of anxious feelings, I frequently suggest this practice to help.
Write Down Your Thoughts
Change the Noise
Change the Script
Start Over And Don’t Clock
If you haven’t fallen asleep within about 15 minutes of lying down, get up, go to another room, and do something relaxing. Read a book for a few minutes, have a drink of water, or just sit and breathe deeply before trying to fall asleep again. Also, don’t watch the clockturn their faces away from you so you can’t see them from bed. Knowing the time may add anxiety and cause you to toss and turn.¹
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Trick Your Brain Into Tiredness
Just as a baby tries to keep itself awake, try keeping your eyes open, and then letting them close, suggests Treacher.
First, let your eyes close just a little. Then, open your eyes fully. Then, close your eyes a quarter way. After this, open your eyes. Repeat, gradually increasing the amount you close your eyes, until your eyes close fully, before opening your eyes again. This way of behaving like a baby may fool your brain into tiredness.
Does Anxiety Go Away
For those people that are diagnosed with a legitimate anxiety disorder, the condition is unlikely to go away. Some people may be able to better control their anxiety disorder with the help and guidance of a therapist or psychologist, and medications may help further control the condition. There may also be specific coping mechanisms to help manage anxiety disorders, however, a permanent cure for anxiety does not currently exist.
For those that do not suffer from an anxiety disorder, but only have occasional or intermittent anxiety from time-to-time, this is normal and healthy behavior for many people. Temporary anxiety is likely to diminish over time, and if it is related to a specific place or person, removing yourself from those situations may help the anxiety go away after some time.
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Learn To Accept Life The Way It Is
I know what you might think, but, no, Im not talking about acceptance this time. I want to underline the fact that life is not as mysterious as the philosophers make it out to be. Life is pretty simple. We are born and we die.
While that is true, its all about what happens in between. We are constantly learning, and our experiences are influenced by this pendulum of good and bad times. Therefore, we should not just seek the good alone, but learn to live our life as a whole.
But, most importantly, is the perspective we approach life with. During the time I was offering writing services, I came across this amazing person who was excited by every challenge that crossed his path.
So, I guess that the lesson here is that the bad things are only the ones you believe to be bad, and the magic of it is that you can always change your beliefs. Life is amazing if you believe it. You can travel you can express yourself in the strangest ways. And you get to be your true self if only you allow yourself to be.
Sleep With A Weighted Blanket
Weighted blankets have been found to be an effective way to help calm anxiety and help you fall asleep, thanks to what’s called deep-pressure stimulation. A 2020 study found that people who use a weighted blanket have lower rates of insomnia and anxiety. Using a weighted blanket isn’t the only thing you should do, but it is an easy way to integrate comfort into your nightly routine. You can choose from the hundreds of options on the market or even make your own weighted blanket.
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Have A Bedtime Routine
Keeping a strict routine is one of the most important things you can do when it comes to helping your body sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will start to train your body that, once it hits a certain hour, its time for sleep.
On top of that, build a bedtime routine and start it 30 minutes to an hour each night before going to bed. You can include any soothing activities you want in your routine, but some ideas are:
- Taking a warm bath or shower
- Doing a relaxation activity, like meditation or a breathing exercise
- Prepare yourself a hot beverage, like a cup of tea
- Cuddle with your partner or pet
- Listen to relaxing music
- Place calming essential oils in a diffuser
Get Rid Of Your Clock
Clocks can be a common trigger for anxiety, especially when youre trying to fall asleep. Instead of having a clock by your bedside where you can glance at it every time you struggle to fall asleep keep a clock outside your room instead. Looking at the clock will only cause your anxiety to get worse, so avoid it altogether.
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Hatch Rest+ Sound Machine And Nightlight
Full disclosure: The Rest+ is technically designed for kids but hear me out. When I used it, it helped me sleep better than it helped my son sleep.
My brother bought it for my son for Christmas and at the time, my son was still sleeping in a bassinet in our room, so I set up the Rest+ near my bed and it didnt take long for me to become dependent on it.
I found the sound machine features incredibly soothing, though other people might find the white noise feature more soothing.
Sound machines can give your brain something for your racing thoughts to focus on and listen to as you lay down to sleep.
The color night light might also be helpful, as you can program it to match your bedtime routine and program the light to slowly dim as you drift off to sleep.
If you prefer not to get a product meant for kids, the company also recently came out with the Hatch Restore aimed at adults specifically. It has many of these same helpful features to create a bedtime routine without any of the baby-focused ones.
Set Aside Time For Winding Down
If youve been struggling with sleep anxiety, Dr. Fran Walfish, family and relationship psychotherapist, suggests creating a routine that winds you down and gets you in the mood for sleep. This can include things like dimming the lights, listening to calming music, or taking a warm bath.
Walfish also suggests opting for activities like light reading in place of a TV or computer, as using a screen can tend to rev up anxiety and excitatory thresholds versus relax and calm you down.
The best nighttime routine allows your mind and body time to slow down before you turn off the lights. Allot at least 30 minutes to take a bath, read a book, listen to a podcast, or play quiet music. These transition rituals can condition your brain to associate certain actions with preparing for sleep.
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Ways To Relieve Nighttime Anxiety
So, how do you actually relieve the anxiety at night? I have a handful of tips and pieces of advice here to help you get your sleep and relieve the anxiety at night, and encourage you to investigate for yourself what helps and what doesnt. Everyone has their own unique experience, so remain open to different practices and methods. Feel into your experience and investigate. Remember, if you are having trouble with any of these you can always work with a therapist online or in person to help you reduce night time anxiety.
Ive separated this list out into things you can do at night while youre experiencing anxiety, and overall changes you can make during your day that may help reduce anxiety once you get into bed.
Habits And Life Changes
Learning to deal with anxiety at night when it arises is useful, but you can also work toward having less bedtime anxiety overall. Research has shown that there are many things you can do to encourage healthy sleep and decrease anxiety during your day. Here are a few things that I have found useful in my work.
Avoid Screens Before Bed
This is one thing you probably already know is bad for you before sleep. Multiple studies have found that screen usage can hurt sleep quality. The blue light of a screen can prevent you from falling asleep and leave you feeling more groggy in the morning. Steer clear of screens for at least an hour before bed. Try reading a book instead, or even listening to music.
What you eat during the day can have a dramatic impact on anxiety levels, especially in the evening. There are nutrients that can reduce anxiety, such as zinc, magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and probiotics. Foods high in sugar and trans fats may worsen symptoms of anxiety. Tune into what you eat, and try to turn toward less-processed, more natural foods to help quell feelings of anxiety in the evening.
Leave the Stimulants
Get Up and Move
Relax Before Bedtime
Dont Spend Time in Bed
Create a Sleep Schedule
A healthy sleep routine is incredibly beneficial. Sleeping and eating on a regular schedule can help give the mind and body the consistency it needs. According to Dr. Natalie Dautovich, the National Sleep Foundations Environmental Scholar:
Get Some Sunshine
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Exercise But Not Right Before Bed
Physical exercise during the day is one of the best habits you can adopt to fall asleep more quickly every night. In fact, some studies have shown that exercise is just as effective as sleeping pills for helping people sleep. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise per day, and youll probably find you start sleeping more soundly.
However, some people may find that exercising right before sleep keeps them up. Thats because exercise releases endorphins, a brain chemical that makes you feel more awake. Others, though, say it doesnt seem to matter when they exercise.
Pay attention to your body. If exercising right before bed seems to be keeping you up, try instead to move your workout to around two hours before going to bed.
What Is Sleep Anxiety
Sleep anxiety is a type of performance anxiety that involves a cycle of anxious thoughts before going to bed, many of which involve unease, nervousness, and worry. While there are dozens of tasks to occupy your cognitive functions during the day, your brain can often struggle to keep itself busy at night, thus resorting to any anxious emotions and thoughts. Anxiety can lead to an endless cycle of stress and poor sleep. If you often experience nighttime anxiety, it may be hard to tell whether youre having trouble sleeping because youre anxious or youre feeling anxious because you cant sleep. According to research, sleep and anxiety go hand-in-hand. Having anxiety can cause sleeping problems and make it difficult to sleep, but sleep deprivation can also trigger anxiety. If youre unable to sleep, you may dread going to bed and waking up feeling even more sleep deprived. UC Berkeley researchers suggest that the lack of sleep can ramp up regions in the brain that trigger excessive worry, which provokes further anxiety and makes sleep even more elusive