Our modern lifestyles are packed with stressful situations that many of us struggle to cope with. Severe reactions to stress that cause you to wake in confusion and terror during the night are a distressing experience. Sometimes they can occur randomly with no obvious trigger.
Why Does This Happen at Night?
You may be wondering, “Why does this happen to me?” The causes will differ from person to person, however, some may include the following:
- Stressful childhood—If you grew up in an environment where you weren’t taught how to deal with stress, or if you had parents who were anxious or overprotective, you are more likely to experience these type of attacks during the night.
- Genetic predisposition—Some people are genetically more likely to develop them.
- Response to big life events—Periods of high stress or major life changes such as changing jobs, getting married or divorced, bereavement or loss, moving, trouble at work, exams and becoming a parent can have a cumulative anxiolytic effect. According to Anxiety Coach, most people who develop these attacks do so in their 20s and 30s, which is the time when most of us establish an independent life.
It doesn’t take long for nocturnal attacks to begin affecting your entire life. If you’re regularly waking up in the middle of the night, you’re at risk of suffering from sleep deprivation. Chronic lack of sleep can affect your body in many ways, including weakening your immune system, impairing your memory and making you feel moody. These, in turn, can negatively impact your life, affecting your work and your relationships.
One thing to be mindful of is that nocturnal attacks are caused by things that are beyond your control. Please do not feel guilty or ashamed. Let’s take a look at how you might be able to help manage your experiences at night and get a restful sleep.
Tips for Nocturnal Attacks
It’s 2 am, and you’ve awakened in a cold sweat, heart racing and teeth chattering. Many people stay in bed, trying to fall asleep again, and getting progressively more worked up. There are several things you can do to make this process easier and help you drift off to sleep:
- Deep breathing—Slow, deliberate, deep breaths are a great way to center yourself again. Breathe in through your nose, and exhale through your mouth, focusing on the sensation of the air flowing in and out of your body. Take a look at our article for more breathing exercises. You can also keep soothing essential oils by your bed, like lavender and chamomile, which may help to relax you.
- Progressive muscle relaxation—Tense up and relax each part of your body in turn. Begin with your toes, and work your way up your body to your head. Visualizing a place where you feel completely comfortable and at ease can make this exercise even more effective.
- Panic sheet—Write up a panic sheet, and keep it by your bed. When a nocturnal attack wakes you up, grab the sheet and read it to remind yourself of what you’re dealing with. Include things like, “This is a nocturnal attack,” “Take slow, deep breaths,” and other soothing phrases that are meaningful to you.
- If you feel very awake and energized, don’t fight it—get up and do something menial, like tidying, sorting through a bookshelf, or tackling those big cleaning chores you may have been putting off. You may soon find your body wants to fall asleep again. Don’t switch on the TV or go on the computer as the blue light from these devices can delay your sleep.
- If you think acid reflux or obstructive sleep apnea may be an issue, speak to your doctor about available treatments.
Breathe, and Let Go
Try not to get stuck on the “why.” Many people go round and round in circles wondering why this is happening, but this question can lead to guilt and increased stress. Instead, focus on being mindful and present and getting yourself back to a place of calm. While CBD may help contribute to a feeling of calm or relaxation, our products are not meant to replace advice from a medical professional, nor are they intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any illnesses.