Anxiety at night, a common issue affecting many individuals, can significantly affect sleep quality and overall well-being. It often manifests as heightened anxiety when trying to fall asleep, leading to a cycle of sleep deprivation and chronic anxiety.

Nocturnal Panic Attacks: Understanding Their Impact on Sleep and Health

What is a Panic Attack?

A panic attack is a sudden onset of intense fear or discomfort, accompanied by physical and mental symptoms. These can include heart palpitations, sweating, trembling, shortness of breath, a feeling of impending doom, or a fear of losing control. Panic attacks can occur unexpectedly or be triggered by specific stressors.

Nocturnal Panic Attacks Explained

Nocturnal panic attacks are panic attacks that occur during sleep. They are particularly distressing because they wake individuals from a relaxed state, often leaving them disoriented and scared. The experience can be so intense that individuals fear going back to sleep, leading to a cycle of sleep anxiety and disruption.

Impact on Sleep Health:

  • Difficulty Falling Back Asleep: After a nocturnal panic attack, the body's stress response is activated, making it difficult to return to a calm, sleep-ready state.
  • Fear of Recurrence: The dread of experiencing another attack can lead to heightened anxiety at bedtime, further exacerbating sleep difficulties.
  • Impact on Sleep Cycles: Frequent nocturnal panic attacks can disrupt the natural sleep cycle, leading to chronic sleep deprivation and its associated health risks.

Physical and Mental Symptoms:

  • Physical Symptoms: Similar to daytime panic attacks, nocturnal ones can include rapid heart rate, heavy breathing, sweating, and chest pains.
  • Mental Distress: The sudden awakening and intense fear can cause significant mental distress. Over time, this can lead to a fear of sleeping, worsening the cycle of anxiety and sleep disruption.

The Link Between Anxiety Disorders and Sleep

Anxiety disorders, including generalised anxiety disorder and panic disorder, are closely linked to sleep problems. Individuals with pre-existing anxiety disorders often find their anxiety worse at night, leading to trouble falling asleep and staying asleep.

Mental Health Professionals' Insights

Mental health professionals emphasise the connection between anxiety and sleep disorders. They note that poor sleep can trigger anxiety in individuals without a history of anxiety disorders, while those with chronic anxiety may experience worsened symptoms due to inadequate sleep.

Calming Nighttime Anxiety

To manage night anxiety and improve sleep quality, consider the following strategies:

Develop Healthy Sleep Habits:

  • Establish a regular bedtime routine.
  • Reduce caffeine intake.
  • Create a calming environment conducive to sleep.

Practice Good Sleep Hygiene: Maintaining good sleep hygiene, such as a cool, dark, and quiet sleep environment, can aid in falling and staying asleep.

Deep Breathing and Relaxation Exercises: Techniques like deep breathing and relaxation exercises before bed can help calm the nervous system and reduce anxiety levels.

Treatment Options for Nighttime Anxiety

Managing night-time anxiety often requires a multi-faceted approach. Here are several treatment options, including hypnotherapy, which can be beneficial:

Talk Therapy

Addressing Root Causes: Sessions with mental health professionals can uncover the underlying causes of anxiety. Therapies like cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) are particularly effective in changing negative thought patterns that contribute to anxiety.

Developing Coping Strategies: Therapists can provide tools and techniques to manage anxiety symptoms, especially those that hinder sleep.


Symptom Management: Medications such as antidepressants or anti-anxiety drugs can be prescribed to alleviate symptoms. These are particularly useful when anxiety severely disrupts sleep and daily functioning.

Short-Term Relief: Some medications are used for short-term relief from acute anxiety symptoms. It's important to use them under the guidance of a healthcare professional, considering their potential side effects and dependency issues.

Lifestyle Changes

Physical Activity: Regular exercise can significantly reduce anxiety levels and improve sleep quality. It helps release endorphins, natural mood lifters, and stabilises sleep patterns.

Mindfulness and Meditation: Practicing mindfulness or meditation can help calm the mind and reduce stress, making it easier to fall asleep. Techniques like guided imagery or progressive muscle relaxation can be especially beneficial before bedtime.

Limiting Stimulants: Reducing intake of substances like caffeine and alcohol can have a positive impact on sleep quality and anxiety.


Accessing the Subconscious: Hypnotherapy involves guiding individuals into a relaxed state where the subconscious mind is more receptive to positive suggestions.

Reframing Negative Thoughts: It can be particularly effective in addressing the subconscious patterns that contribute to anxiety, helping to reframe negative thought processes into more positive and calming ones.

Relaxation Techniques: Hypnotherapists can teach relaxation techniques such as self-hypnosis that clients can use before bedtime to ease into sleep.

Personalised Approaches: A hypnotherapist can tailor their approach to suit individual needs, focusing on specific anxiety triggers and sleep disturbances.

Complementary Therapies

Herbal Supplements: Some may find relief using natural supplements like valerian root or chamomile, known for their calming properties. You should consult with a GP before starting any supplement.

Acupuncture: This traditional Chinese medicine technique is believed to balance the body's energy flow and can be effective in reducing anxiety symptoms.

The Role of Sleep Diaries and Studies

Sleep Diary: Keeping a sleep diary can help track patterns and triggers of nighttime anxiety.

Sleep Study: In cases of severe sleep anxiety or suspected sleep disorders, a sleep study might be recommended by a healthcare provider.

The Effect of Anxiety on Physical Health

Persistent anxiety, especially when combined with poor sleep, can lead to physical health issues such as high blood pressure and tension in the muscles. It's important to address these symptoms as part of a comprehensive anxiety management plan.

Navigating Nighttime Anxiety

Anxiety at night can be a challenging experience, but with the right strategies and support, it's possible to achieve a restful night's sleep and improve overall mental health. If nighttime anxiety is affecting your life, consider reaching out to a mental health professional for tailored advice and treatment options.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I stop being a procrastinator?

To stop being a procrastinator, prioritise tasks with Eisenhower's Urgent/Important Principle, plan your days and break tasks into manageable steps. Also, commit to a tiny first step, make tasks more enjoyable and delay before indulging impulses.

What is the leading cause of procrastination?

Procrastination is caused by stress, fear, anxiety and underlying issues like ADHD. It is not simply a matter of laziness but requires self-reflection and understanding. To tackle procrastination, it is important to identify the root cause of the issue. Once the cause is identified, developing strategies to manage it is possible.

What are the 7 steps to cure procrastination?

Eliminate procrastination from your life by recognising you are a procrastinator, making to-do lists, breaking big goals into little ones, eliminating distractions, creating a plan of attack, avoiding perfectionism, and rewarding yourself.

Does laziness cause procrastination?

Though they may appear similar, procrastination and laziness are distinct concepts; thus, procrastination is not necessarily caused by laziness.

How can I prioritise tasks effectively?

Prioritise tasks effectively by creating a task list and assessing urgency and importance, order tasks based on effort needed and adjust priorities as necessary