Nighttime Panic Attacks


Hi everyone,

Just coming on to ask if anyone has ever experienced waking up at like 2 or 3 in the morning experiencing a panic attack. This has been happening for years but I just now realized that that is what they probably are.

I will confirm with my T this week. I just want to know I'm not alone.

Does anyone have any tips or coping strategies other than taking a xanax and waking my husband up for assistance? That's my usual course of action. I'm sure my T will have tips but I don't see him until Monday, and I think I will need to reschedule because of work anyways.

Thanks everyone. This year has been particularly hard for me.
Hey @Chitoshi I'm pleased that you know what they are. If you're waking up and finding it difficult to return to sleep because of disturbing thoughts etc that won't let you settle again, I highly recommend placing a note book and pen next to your bedside & writing out what is going on. Your thoughts, your feelings and also anything you want to discuss with T next bc it's always helpful to have a reminder.

The objective is to get it out of your head and in the act of handwriting our brains slow down, calm down and you can than maybe have a soothing drink, read for a while or just turn off the lights and focus on your breathing. Do you have any breathing techniques? They do work for some ppl., certainly for me anyway.

I'd not take a Xanax - I understand how tempting it is, but honestly, over time and for whole of life health, there are better ways of managing panic attacks.

Good luck.


writing out what is going on. Your thoughts, your feelings and also anything you want to discuss with T next

That is a good idea. I already wrote down post-morning (in the afternoon) what happened, but I honestly never have tangible thoughts, no dream remembrances, just feelings that I can't breathe and that my chest is tight with that sense of impending doom and that "nowhere is safe" feeling. I have a lot of stress in my life that is compounded by the pandemic, work, and a 100 hour course I got volun-told to do but I am getting compensated for it and will have additional skills related to my job at the end of it.

Do you have any breathing techniques?

Just the breathe in for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4-5. Sometimes it works, sometimes my mind just doesn't want to shake the feeling and likes to hold onto it.

I've been using a mindfulness/guided meditation app called Headspace before bed and that has helped with the falling asleep. The staying asleep is just a total loss for me.

'd not take a Xanax - I understand how tempting it is, but honestly, over time and for whole of life health, there are better ways of managing panic attacks

I agree. I usually hold an ice cube or bite into a lemon. I go weeks without it then will take it 3 days in a row because my anxiety makes me feel like I am drowning and that my face is entirely numb and tingling. ? To give you an idea, I was prescribed 30 pill in 2018 and I still have 4 left from that, haha.

I don't see my T until Thursday. I did write down the feelings to talk about it, but I worry that there's nothing to be done that will get me through a whole night of sleep.

@Mee , I don't have headphones, but we do have a box fan for white noise. :)
ust the breathe in for 4, hold for 4, exhale for 4-5.

Okay...not quite.

Maybe try imagining a square out in front of your body.

Try this when you're not panicked before employing it when you are.

Start at the bottom right & in your mind trace it whilst breathing a squarish pattern.

Breathe in for, four seconds, climbing up the side of the square,
hold for two, at the corner,
turn left breathing out for five seconds,
hold for two, at the corner,
breathe in for four, running down the side,
hold for two, at the corner,
breathe out for five
& repeat.

It's not easy to keep it up because there's an natural inclination to rapid breathe whilst panicked.

It doesn't have to be that ^timing or that you could imagine the frame of one of your favourite paintings or photos...something calm and that means something good to you. Obviously lung damage and other physical limitations may make that timing hard. But try to start with that.

If you feel out of breath, more than likely it's because you may have been holding your breath too long (sometimes panic attacks can instinctively cause us to hold our breathe, then gasp rapidly and then hold and that pattern doesn't allow for sufficient exchange of gases. So the whole technique relies on slowing breathing down and ensuring there is sufficient gas exchange.

This technique is to try and walk back from that panicked breathing response.

To succeed it must be slow, steady and rhythmic. Not rapid.. resist the urge to add in another breathe if that comes along and probably will if you are feeling panicked.

*emphasis is always on the breathing out - push the carbon dioxide as far out as you possibly can. Completely empty your lungs. That leaves enough room to inhale deeply.
*change the number of seconds you breathe in, hold, out to whatever feels most comfortable. But, after maybe four circuits if you can manage it add another second to the in and out phases.
*concentrate on the rising of your chest, the drawing in of fresh air and the expulsion of used air.
*if your mind wanders off to unwanted non-calming thoughts, gently re-focus back to the breathing - but if you start imagining nice thoughts let them come. (of course)
*do it for 5 minutes or more if you can.
(I frequently fall back to sleep after a while)
*Practice, as with most things, makes it work better :)

The idea imo with breathing is simple but also complex. It's aim is to use your body with rhythmic breathing to 'trick' your brain that the 'traumatic' event, panic etc - response- ie rapid breathing etc - is not necessary in that moment, or that is has passed.

Focusing on deliberate, steady breathing indicates to all of those muscles, heart & etc that there is no need anymore to run, hide, fight.

It stands down the panic response because the response is what it's all about. It's the middle of the night so you cannot resolve past trauma right then. But you can rest your body and mind for the coming day with intentions of dealing with some of it when you're ready and rested?

That's how I understand it to work. But if anyone has more or better information - go for it.


@blackemerald1 , thank you for your assistance. I tried it before bed one night and was able to sleep through the night. Subsequent nights were still hard. I talked to my T yesterday and he said there's a part of me who is "panicked" and needs more reassurance than what I am giving her (I was talking myself through "I have done everything I can in a day, etc etc, I have done my best and that is all that is being asked of me kind of thing).

So he basically told me I need to talk to myself and ask myself what I need, and really try and listen for the answer in order to soothe that part of me. He said basically it's like having a small child that you need to shush and comfort. I'm not entirely sure what he's getting at, but we ran out of time and he said for now just try to listen, reassure, and soothe, and we'll talk about other strategies next week.


Please google "SLEEP RELATED LARYNGOSPASM" and see if it is what you are suffering. I have that HORRIBLE disorder from my teens and only recently found out it was that my throat gets closed while sleeping and so the body wakes you up in panic to make you breath. Doctors know nothing about it. Please send me a message, Id like to talk about this with someone who also suffers from it.
This is sleep apnoea. Very very common condition. Worth googling to find advice for it.


I know the feeling ... waking with the ball in your chest ... friggin awful. I get up turn on the light try to shake the center of my chest ... deep meaningful breaths. Look around, know you are safe in your environment. Then distract with the tv, music ... whatever ... shower if you feel safe doing that. On breath, exaltation imagine it takin a piece of that ball in your chest ... imagine that ball getting smaller and smaller.

Hope you find some good strategies to use, not one but a dozen that you can holster for the right time ... have it trained and practiced.

I think practicing our tools in good times is really important. Don't; just use your tools when under stress and panic, be skilled and trained by practicing when all is well and calm.


I frequently wake up at crazy hours with panic attacks, I can relate.

What helps me most is housecleaning. Not major work, just small stuff to give the negative energy a purpose. It has to go somewhere so it can decrease back to a normal level. That's just me, it may not work for others. Music while cleaning is also calming to me.

I wish you the best!