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Nocturnal Panic Attacks

Waking at night

Q. Sometimes at night usually when I go to bed on the early side I can wake up with a full blown panic attack..short of breath..feeling unreal..and knowing that this is the big one...it is so scary and sometimes I think I will not make it thru one more ...are these night time attacks common..also my chest and neck seem to be red and flushed all the time is this normal?

A. Yes many people experience night time panic attacks. There is no doubt they can feel very violent.

It is very important for you to have had a full medical check up to ensure there is no physical cause for the attacks. Once you have been diagnosed as having nocturnal attacks it then becomes a matter of learning to manage them. There is research which suggests (and with which we agree with 100%) that the nocturnal attacks happen on the change of consciousness...as we either move into sleep, known as the hypnogognic state, or as we move from REM sleep to deep sleep or deep sleep back to REM. The attacks are not associated to dreams or nightmares, but happens as we said on the change of consciousness. One research study (again with which we agree) says it is the magnitude of the change in consciousness which can create the symptoms.

People who develop this type of attack usually have a history of dissociation. That is they have the ability to self induce various trance states during the day, though they may not be aware of their ability to do this. This can be very similar to the change in consciousness during sleep. Panic Attack symptoms can manifest in many different ways and it is very common for people to have a red face and/or neck as a result.

Meditation is the basis of our Panic Anxiety Management Programs and Workshops. We use meditation as a relaxation technique and as a cognitive technique.

Unlike most relaxation techniques, meditation relaxes the mind,.our body relaxes as a result.

This meditation tape is designed specifically for people with an anxiety disorder.

"Taking Back the Power" 

proceeds from our bookshop fund our website.


Bronwyn Fox's book, 'Power over Panic' is,as far as we are aware, the only book about Panic Disorder on the market which deals with the nocturnal panic attack and dissociation and teaches people how to manage the attacks.

We can refer you onto a cognitive behavioural therapist if you wish.

Nocturnal Panic Attacks and trips to A & E

Q. I awoke this evening to yet another of my nightly panic attacks....your web site is very informative and makes for good reading when one is waiting for their heart rate to return to normal!

I have had a serious problem with panic attacks for 3 years now. Although I am taking medication and have somewhat learned to live with it, I still wish I could find a way to not have to get up in the middle of the night 2-3 times a week, drive over to the nearest hospital and sit in the parking lot "just in case" this time its real. I have found that the quickest way for me to stop the attack is to get up, get dressed, and drive somewhere, whether that be driving over to the hospital parking lot, or just aimlessly around town. I would LOVE any other ideas or tips of exercises I could perform to help stop the panic attack as quickly as possible.

A. The secret of recovery is to lose your fear of the panic attacks. It is quite common for people to spend the night in the car parks of public hospitals, 'just in case'. The reality is though, no matter how violent the panic attack feels they will not hurt you in any way. We all wait for the 'big one', but it simply doesn't happen. It is the fear which creates all the ongoing problems including the disabilities such as agoraphobia, prescribed drug addiction etc.

Nocturnal attacks were part of my own panic disorder, so I do understand what they feel like. Now that have lost my fear of them I don't care if I have one or not. 'So What!' I may still have one if I am tired or stressed and when they wake me up all I need say to myself is, 'an attack' and I roll over and go back to sleep. So What!

The research on the nocturnal attacks show they happen on the change of consciousness as we are going to sleep or from REM to deep sleep or deep sleep back to REM or as we wake up. The research also shows they have nothing to do with dreams or nightmares. It is simply an effect of the change of consciousness.

Recovery means understanding exactly what is happening to you and understanding and accepting that your panic attacks will not hurt you. You are living breathing proof of this along with other people throughout the world...including me! Recovery also means not buying into the fear and the anxiety producing thoughts and letting the panic attack happen. This means total non resistance to them. It is the fear and the resistance which keeps it all going. Once you can simply let the panic attacks happen they disappear as quickly as they come. Instead of 'what if' it becomes 'So what'! - This is simplified of course and most of us use Cognitive Behavioural Skills to help us reach this point.

We can refer you onto a CBT therapist if you wish. We will need to know the name of the Country/State/City/Town you live in.

Marijuana and night panic attacks

Q. I was so glad to see that others have developed anxiety attacks as a result of marijuana use nearly a year ago. People in general have not understood my attacks, why I have them and how to deal with them. I had a smoke after a year of not smoking marijuana and did not sleep for 3 days afterwards with the fear that I would never wake up - this is when my anxiety attacks began. I truly believed that I was going to die. I had attacks at least once a day for 4 months afterwards and could not function properly. I couldn't relax, work , or go out, I had attacks in the middle of the night , while watching videos, at pubs etc etc. I was also diagnosed with a sleep disorder not long afterwards as my attacks often occurred in the middle of the night and I had a fear of falling asleep. Although the attacks have decreased I often feel one coming on- and I am wondering! how I can prevent one from occurring without taking chemical medication?

A. It is not so much preventing them, although you can decrease your vulnerability to them. It is more a matter of learning to lose your fear of them. Even though they can feel very violent they will not hurt you. The nocturnal panic attacks happen on the change in consciousness...as you are going to sleep or moving from REM to deep sleep, or deep sleep back to REM. They have nothing to do with dreams or nightmares but happen as we said on the change of consciousness. Many people with panic disorder have the nocturnal attacks. It is not so much a sleep disorder per se.

Bronwyn Fox's book, 'Power over Panic' , cassette tapes and videos deals with the nocturnal panic attack and teaches people how to manage the attacks.

We can refer you to a Cognitive Behavioural therapist if you wish. If you would like a referral can you advise us of the name of the Country/State/City/Town you live in?

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