Panic attacks are frightening. Those of you lucky enough never to have suffered cannot imaging the unpredictable bouts of terror that grip people when they suffer a panic attack. Sleep panic attacks are when the attacks start when you are asleep
Symptoms can vary but most common are a pounding heart, churning stomach, breath coming in short gasps, tense muscles and sweating profusely. The sort of symptoms you would expect to experience if about to go into battle – not when queuing up in a supermarket.
There is a strong desire to escape – even though you don’t know what you are running from. You feel everyone is looking at you, that this panic will cause you to collapse and die.
What is worse when you wake up to these symptoms. In the darkness of your bedroom you are roused from sleep by this grip of terror. The disorientation of waking up, unsure where you are and what is happening compound the already dreadful affect of a panic attack.
Overcome Panic Attacks
The first thing to grasp is that whilst extreme, these reactions of your body are normal. People don’t die from panic attacks. Ironically your body is trying to help you – more of that to come.
The second principle – easier said than done – is to try and ride out the panic and not run from it. You body thinks that something dangerous is happening, by running you are reinforcing that you are in danger.
The most common advice for overcoming panic attacks is;-
1) Distract yourself. Take your mind away from what is happening to your body and allow the panic to subside.
2) Positive self talk. If you know the panic attack will fade and you can cope, try to get your self talk to tell you so. Again, easier said than done.
3) Breathing slowly. One problem that occurs, particularly with sleep panic attacks, is are lungs have become full. We haven’t breathed out properly, probably by over breathing. Consequently when you try to breathe in, you cannot. This is an awful feeling.
The other issue with breathing is your balance of oxygen to carbon dioxide in the body gets out of kilter, leading to the feelings of dizziness.
Getting your breathing back into a slow steady rhythm will help – not least as it will distract you as well. The most common advice is to breath in and out of a paper bag – or your cupped hands if no bag is available.
4) Relaxation. This is a stage beyond steady breathing and will be a post in itself. Learning to relax is an important, useful skill – even if you don’t suffer sleep panic attacks.
photo by nate steiner on flickr
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