Nocturnal Panic Attacks​

Nocturnal Panic Attacks

What really causes Nocturnal Panic Attacks?

Nocturnal Panic Attacks – Nocturnal panic attacks can happen without any warning and can jolt you wide awake at night. Just like panic attacks that happen when you’re fully awake, you can experience fast heart rate, shortness of breath, flushing, sweating, trembling, chills, and even the sense of doom. These signs and symptoms can be quite alarming as they can mimic that of having a heart attack or other medical issues. Although having nocturnal panic attacks symptoms can be quite uncomfortable, they are not exactly dangerous.

Nocturnal panic attacks can last for a few minutes, and it may take a while before you are able to calm down and slip back into sleep. Those who experience panic attacks at night, typically experience panic attacks during the day. It’s rather unclear what triggers them in the first place, but stress, genetics, thyroid issues, and even sleep disorders are believed to have influence.  

Symptoms of Nocturnal Panic Attacks

How will you know if you are having panic attacks at nights? If you exhibit three or four of the following nocturnal panic attacks symptoms, then you know what you are dealing with.

  • Sweating
  • Feeling faint
  • Palpitations or fast heart rate
  • Trembling
  • Feeling fear of dying
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fear of losing control
  • Numbness or tingling sensation
  • Chills
  • Nausea
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Feeling of being smothered
  • Choking feeling
  • The feeling of being detached from oneself
  • Feelings of unreality

Panic attacks are typically associated with panic disorder, but it is possible for them to occur in conjunction with mental disorders like post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, agoraphobia, eating disorders, and certain phobias.

Leading Causes Of Nocturnal Panic Attacks​

Leading Causes of Nocturnal Panic Attacks

Although panic attacks at night can happen all of a sudden and may seem frightening when you experience them for the first time, they are fairly common. But what causes them in the first place?

Researchers are still studying the root cause as to why some people experience nocturnal anxiety attacks. What they do know is that when we sleep, our brain doesn’t really shut down at all, which is why it is possible for any anxiety or stress to manifest in our subconscious, thus triggering a nighttime panic attack. As it was mentioned earlier, those who have panic attacks during the day are likely to experience them at night too.

That said, here are other possible reasons as to why panic attacks happen:


If you have a family history of panic disorder, it is likely a reason why you are experiencing panic attacks.

Chronic physical illness

Cancer, restless leg syndrome, arthritis, and other illnesses can put you at higher risk for having panic attacks.

Significant loss

Breakdown of relationship, death in the family, or personal loss.

Side effects of medication

There are some medications that can trigger panic attacks.


Those who are cutting back on drugs, alcohol, and other medications may exhibit symptoms of nocturnal anxiety attacks.

Life-changing events

Some people experience panic attack symptoms when they have undergone a life-changing event such as moving into a new home, getting married, having a baby, and so on.

Use of certain foods like cannabis or coffee

Stimulants can cause palpitations when taken in excess, which mimics the effects of a panic attack.

Social Phobias

Individuals who are not assertive when it comes to communicating their thoughts and ideas may experience anxiety attacks.

Mental health conditions

Anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD, and depression may contribute to panic attacks.

Essential Oil

Medical Treatments for Panic Disorder

Panic attacks are typically addressed with the help of relaxation as well as reassuring techniques. However, depending on the frequency and severity, in some cases, doctors will recommend certain medications, especially when there is a suspected underlying health condition that is causing these attacks to happen. Some nocturnal panic attacks treatment may include the following:

Prescription medications

There are instances when prescription medications are given to those who are suffering from both daytime and nocturnal panic attacks. Among the possible nocturnal panic attacks treatment that are recommended include benzodiazepines. If anxiety is the cause, some individuals may be given lorazepam or diazepam, which are medicines to combat anxiety. Antidepressant-class drugs like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, as well as selective serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors, may be prescribed.


Psychotherapy is also used in treating panic disorder along with certain medications since it has been proven that the combination of the two works better compared to medications alone. Cognitive behavioral therapy is one form of psychotherapy that is accepted when it comes to treating the disorder. Behavioral therapy aims to assist those who have a panic disorder by identifying and the thoughts and behaviors that trigger symptoms of panic attacks.

Beta-blocker medications

If your doctor suspects that the cause of the symptoms is a cardiac problem, you may be put on an aspirin regimen. However, that will not alleviate acute symptoms. Blood pressure medicines or Propranolol may be recommended, which is a type of beta-blocker. These medications can be prescribed to those who experience signs of anxiety and panic attacks (presenting with physical symptoms) due to an underlying heart issue.


Once doctors have determined that you are suffering from panic disorder, it may be that they will not require any medications for now. First, you will be checked by a health professional who is an expert in mental health to determine if you have other mental disorders such as depression or anxiety, which may be triggering your panic disorder.

Responding To Panic Attacks At Night​

Responding to Panic Attacks at Night

Now that you have an idea of the various nocturnal panic attacks symptoms that may appear, as well as possible treatment in the form of therapy CBT or taking medications, you might want to consider some coping methods that can help calm your nocturnal panic attacks. Instead of just asking why panic attacks happen to you, it would also be a good idea to learn how to deal with the problem head-on. Here are a few tips to consider that can help you handle nocturnal anxiety attacks.

Get up

When you’ve been jolted wide awake because of your nocturnal panic attacks or anxiety disorders, chances are it will be difficult for you to get back to sleep. You can wait for a minute to see if you will be able to go back to sleep, but that’s it. The more you lie there waiting, the more likely it will become that you feel more frustrated and panicked. The best approach here is to get up and wake yourself up completely. Walk around the house and check on your pets, the doors, and whatnot. Look for ways to distract yourself from the recent anxiety attack, until you feel calm enough to go back to sleep.

Work with it

Some of us tend to fight the symptoms of nocturnal panic attacks by resisting or ignoring it completely. Unfortunately, this will only worsen the situation and may make you more anxious than before. A better approach here is to acknowledge the symptoms of the panic attack and observe its effects on you. Once you have accepted it, you can apply the tricks that you have learned in your behavioral therapy session like deep belly breathing. You can fill out your panic diary too if you’d like, as writing helps to clear the mind.

Do menial chores

If you find yourself wide awake after a panic attack, instead of forcing yourself to sleep, do something monotonous that will not keep you awake. Make your weekly to-do list or fold laundry if you feel like it. Chances are you will be back in bed in no time and sleeping soundly.

Deep breathing

For those who are plagued with the symptoms of nocturnal panic attacks frequently, to prevent it from becoming a full-blown panic attack, learn deep breathing techniques. Breathing in for a count of five, holding it for five more, then breathe all the air out in five counts. Repeat these steps until you feel that you are more in control of your body. Even if this is your first time experiencing symptoms of a panic attack at night, try learning deep breathing techniques to help calm your mind, and focus your thoughts.


Another possible way to minimize the effects of nocturnal panic attacks is through the grounding technique where you focus on four or five things that you can easily see in your room. Redirecting your thoughts outwards can help reduce the level of anxiety that you are feeling.

Count backward

You can also try counting backward with the intervals of threes. Start from 100 then work your way downward. The random intervals will help capture your focus to the point where your anxious thoughts may dissipate.


Just like deep breathing, yoga has been found to reduce one’s anxiety and stress levels. This can help minimize your nighttime anxiety attacks. Not only will you learn how to control your breathing when practicing yoga, but you’ll also feel more healthy — mind and body.


If you are not into traditional medicine, acupuncture may be a good alternative. It may help ease your anxious feelings overall, which can help reduce the onset of nocturnal panic attacks. With this form of therapy, thin needles are inserted into your skin to help redirect the energy.

Family support

Regardless of whether you experience phobias panic attacks or post-traumatic stress, it is a good idea to ask your family for help. By letting your family know what you are going through and communicating your needs to them, it will be easier for them to support you when symptoms occur.


Nocturnal panic attacks can leave you with high anxiety levels, which can prevent you from being able to go back to sleep after an episode. That said, why not diffuse some lavender essential oil since you will need to get out of bed to walk your anxiety off. Lavender has soothing and relaxing properties that can reduce your stress levels and may help you feel more at ease. You can add a few drops on your pillows too if you like.

Laugh it off

This is easier said than done but having a good sense of humor can also help reduce anxiety attacks. Even a pretend laugh can cause dopamine levels to go up. Dopamine is the one that triggers the feeling of pleasure or reward.

The Last Word About nocturnal panic attacks

Dealing with nocturnal panic attacks, particularly for the first time, is not easy, especially since the symptoms can be somewhat similar to that of having a heart attack. That said, aside from learning why panic attacks happen, it’s important that you know what nocturnal panic attacks treatment is available to you. Most PD patients undergo cognitive therapy along with medications to help reduce their panic attacks, while some are given prescription medications alone. Treatment will depend on the diagnosis of a specialist.

It is understandable that experiencing signs and symptoms of nocturnal panic attacks may be scary, but the good news is that help is out there. Just follow the tips mentioned above on how to deal with the symptoms, and you’ll find yourself going back to sleep in no time. However, if you find that your panic attacks are becoming severe, make sure to schedule a visit with your doctor immediately.

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