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Anxiety Attacks While Sleeping

Medha Godbole Jan 2, 2019
Anxiety attacks while sleeping are not a very rare occurrence. There are many reasons why these attacks occur. Here is some information about why people are affected by such attacks at night, and how can they be controlled or prevented.
Anxiety disorders can manifest in the form of physical, as well as emotional symptoms. An anxiety attack is a very sudden surge of extreme anxiety, intense psychological arousal, fear, and general discomfort. At times, people may experience nocturnal anxiety attacks.

Manifestation of the Attack

A person who is experiencing a nocturnal panic attack might have a sense or fear of dying. This has been reported often in such cases. He/she could also feel nauseated, get a flashing vision or have a sense of losing control. These symptoms may also be accompanied by heavy breathing.
The most common symptoms include:
  • Heart palpitations
  • Trembling
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Hot and cold flushes
  • Sweating
  • Chest pain
  • Tingling sensation
  • Hyperventilation
  • Sensation of choking
Most often than not, chest pain and shortness of breath is very prominent. Even though these are experienced in association with a psychological condition or an anxiety disorder, it does not necessarily indicate a mental disorder.
However, agoraphobia is an anxiety disorder, where people can have severe panic attacks and fear of facing a difficult situation to the extent that they might not even drive or step out of the house. This is a very severe psychological condition.


A famous poet, John Milton had said, "The mind is its own place, and in itself, can make heaven of Hell, and a hell of Heaven". Our mind works in mysterious ways, so it is really difficult to fathom what goes on in our minds.
There are people who are often plagued by panic-stricken thoughts. Such people may be more susceptible to anxiety attacks while sleeping.

Chemical imbalance in the brain could be a contributory factor.
People who are affected by sleep disorders may also be at an increased risk of experiencing such attacks.

Use of certain stimulants and antidepressants could also make one susceptible.


The treatment could vary depending upon the individual and the underlying causes of the attack. Let's see some of the treatment options.
Drug Therapy: While pharmacological intervention that involves the use of antidepressants like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, tricyclic antidepressants, monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or antianxiety drugs like benzodiazepines may help, there is the risk of the affected person becoming dependent on them. Some of the drugs may cause adverse effects.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: The importance of cognitive behavioral therapy cannot be stressed enough. This therapy involves cognitive restructuring, thereby replacing the individual's negative thoughts by a positive perception. The affected person is made to identify the causes behind anxiety and negative thinking that causes such attacks.
Exposure Therapy: Medical experts may also resort to exposure therapy. In this therapeutic approach, the affected person is made to confront his fears. He/she is made to face his/her worst fears in a controlled environment in order to help him/her alter his/her reaction to such situations.
Other Treatment Options: Self-help techniques can also be followed. Deep breathing exercises, visualization techniques, yoga, meditation, etc., can also help a person cope with anxiety disorders. Lifestyle modification can also help to a great extent.
Medical help must be sought if a person is exhibiting the symptoms of an anxiety disorder. A combination of drug therapy and behavioral therapy can help in alleviating the symptoms to a great extent. The affected individuals must also incorporate lifestyle changes to get rid of stress and anxiety.
Disclaimer: This content is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.