Nighttime (nocturnal) panic attacks occur with no obvious trigger and awaken you from sleep. As with a daytime panic attack, you may experience sweating, rapid heart rate, trembling, shortness of breath, heavy breathing (hyperventilation), flushing or chills, and a sense of impending doom. These signs and symptoms are quite alarming and can mimic those of a heart attack or other serious medical condition. Although nocturnal panic attacks usually last less than 10 minutes, it may take a while to calm down and go back to sleep after you have one.
It’s not known what causes panic attacks. Underlying factors may include genetics, stress and certain changes in the way parts of your brain work. In some cases, an underlying condition, such as a sleep disorder, can cause panic-like signs and symptoms. Talk with your doctor about your symptoms and whether you should have any tests for a possible underlying condition.
Treatment including medications and mental health counseling (cognitive behavioral therapy) can help prevent panic attacks — and reduce their intensity when they do occur.
The most common type of sleep apnea is called obstructive sleep apnea. It happens because the muscles in your throat relax, blocking the flow of air to your lungs. Your airway might be completely blocked or only partly blocked. When you stop breathing, the amount of oxygen in your blood drops. Your brain recognizes this and makes your body start breathing again.
If you have sleep apnea, there are times during the night when you stop breathing for 10 seconds or longer.
Your doctor needs to know how often there is a pause in your breathing. This helps to determine how severe your problem is. You might be asked to stay overnight in a sleep laboratory. Or your doctor might ask you to have your breathing measured at home.
Here’s one guide that doctors use: -If your breathing is affected between five and 15 times an hour, you have mild sleep apnea.
-If your breathing is affected between 16 and 30 times an hour, you have moderate sleep apnea.
-If your breathing is affected more than 31 times an hour, you have severe sleep apnea.
People with severe sleep apnea may be at an increased risk of high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke and dying early.
Do you find yourself unable to sleep or waking up night after night? Residual stress, worry, and anger from your day can make it very difficult to sleep well. When you wake up or can’t get to sleep, take note of what seems to be the recurring theme. That will help you figure out what you need to do to get your stress and anger under control during the day.
If you can’t stop yourself from worrying, especially about things outside your control, you need to learn how to manage your thoughts. For example, you can learn to evaluate your worries to see if they’re truly realistic and replace irrational fears with more productive thoughts. Even counting sheep is more productive than worrying at bedtime. If the stress of managing work, family, or school is keeping you awake, you may need help with stress management. By learning how to manage your time effectively, handle stress in a productive way, and maintain a calm, positive outlook, you’ll be able to sleep better at night. Relaxation techniques for better sleep
Relaxation is beneficial for everyone, but especially for those struggling with sleep. Practicing relaxation techniques before bed is a great way to wind down, calm the mind, and prepare for sleep. Some simple relaxation techniques include: -Deep breathing. Close your eyes, and try taking deep, slow breaths, making each breath even deeper than the last. -Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting with your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head. -Visualizing a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel.
Sleep may seem to be a passive and dormant state, but even though activity in the cortex – the surface of the brain – drops by about 40 per cent while we are in the first phases of sleep, the brain remains highly active during later stages of the night.
A typical night’s sleep comprises five different sleep cycles, each lasting about 90 minutes. The first four stages of each cycle are regarded as quiet sleep or non-rapid eye move-ment (NREM). The final stage is denoted by rapid eye movement (REM).
During the first stage of sleep, brain waves are small undulations. During stage two these intersperse with electrical signals called sleep spindles – small bursts of activity lasting a couple of seconds which keep us in a state of quiet readiness.
As stage two merges into stage three, the brain waves continue to deepen into large slow waves. The larger and slower the brain wave, the deeper the sleep. Stage four is reached when 50 per cent of the waves are slow.
At this point, we are not taxed mentally and 40 per cent of the usual blood flow to the brain is diverted to the muscles to restore energy. However, during the REM that follows there is a high level of brain activity. This is the stage associated with dreaming and is triggered by the pons – the part of the brain stem that relays nerve impulses between the spinal cord and the brain – and neighbouring structures. REM sleep is thought to help consolidate memory and emotion, as at this point in sleep blood flow rises sharply in several brain areas linked to processing memories and emotional experiences. In areas involving complex reasoning and language, blood flow declines. Although brain activity is high at this point, the muscles of the body are relaxed to a point of virtual paralysis. Some experts suggest that this is a device to allow the mind to explore the realms of subconscious without acting upon events occurring in dreams.