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Night Moods: Do You Have Nocturnal Panic Attacks?

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By: Dr. Amit Mehta

Do you have nocturnal panic attacks? Many of us do and most of those that do have them do not know what they are. If you find yourself doing things like this, then you may be experiencing this condition.

You go to sleep knowing that you need to sleep to have a good day tomorrow. But, then trouble happens. As you unconsciously transition from one level of sleep to another, something frightening happens. You bolt upright to find yourself short of breath and suffering from chest pains. You feel dizzy and have a sense of impending doom and suffocation. You're sweating and feel as if you're going crazy. You have just experienced a nocturnal panic attack.

Nocturnal panic attacks occur to many people. They happen when they want to and do not give any signs that they are going to happen. Your dreams have nothing to do with this condition. In fact, you may not even remember the dreams, only the terror of the nocturnal panic attacks. Nightmares happen at a different time frame during your sleep than panic attacks happen.

Sleep Apnea

If you suffer from sleep apnea, you may be experiencing panic attacks at least in part due to this. Your heart rate will increase as will your blood flow. This causes a feeling anxiety and that can lead to panic attacks. It is your body's way of protecting you.

What Are They

Many of those that face nocturnal panic attacks will also experience panic attacks during the day. About half of those that have panic attacks during the day will have them at night as well. But, the catch is that only ten percent of all panic attacks happen during the night.

People that have these night time terrors often have a fear of things like having a heart attack or having a stroke while they are asleep. They are, in effect, worrying about bad things happening to them even when they know that it is unlikely that they will happen.

What Can Be Done

One thing you can do independently is take inventory of your bedtime habits. Be merciless. Be thorough. There are likely many behaviors you can modify that will keep you from sleeping too lightly, thereby decreasing your risk of being awakened by panicky feelings. The most common types of modifications involve changes in dietary behavior.

The National Sleep Foundation suggests pinpointing diet-related culprits by eliminating them, one at a time, and taking note of the results. Reducing your daily consumption of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages after midday can often bring the biggest rewards. Other nocturnal panic attack sufferers choose to forego the use of artificial sweeteners.

Any attempt at getting a better night's sleep that works consistently should be adopted immediately. Eliminate daytime naps, if they are currently a part of your regular routine. Do all you can to encourage your body to rest easy. Nocturnal panic attacks can be treated by your doctor as well.

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About the Contributor

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