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How To Stop Panic Attacks at Night and Sleep Peacefully

How To Stop Panic Attacks at Night and Sleep Peacefully

Experiencing panic attacks at night is unsettling as it disrupts your sleep and leaves you feeling uneasy. These episodes often occur unexpectedly, making them even more challenging to handle. This issue isn’t uncommon, with 71% of individuals with panic disorder having experienced at least one nocturnal panic attack.

On the brighter side, understanding the reasons behind this problem and applying the right strategies can help you get a good night’s rest. Learn how to stop panic attacks at night with the right medications and effective non-pharmaceutical methods.

Recognizing What Triggers Panic Attacks at Night

Understanding your triggers is the first step to managing panic attacks. Six common factors contributing to nocturnal unease are:

  1. Stress and anxiety
  2. Certain foods and drinks
  3. Irregular breathing patterns
  4. Underlying health conditions
  5. Intense physical activity before bedtime
  6. Lack of sleep

Stress and Anxiety

When you’re anxious, your body gets into a “fight-or-flight” mode—a primal response meant to protect you from perceived danger. During this state, your body produces more adrenaline, a hormone that prepares you to either confront the threat or flee from it. This surge of adrenaline can cause physical symptoms typically associated with panic attacks, including the following:

  • Rapid heart rate
  • Shortness of breath
  • A sense of impending doom

Certain Foods and Drinks

Certain foods and drinks, particularly those containing caffeine and alcohol, directly impact your body’s physiology. These substances stimulate your nervous system, causing an increase in heart rate and blood pressure.

The heightened physiological state that these substances cause can mimic the symptoms of a panic attack, making you more susceptible to experiencing one.

Irregular Breathing Patterns

Your breathing pattern affects your body’s physiological state. Irregular or shallow breathing can lead to an imbalance in the carbon dioxide and oxygen levels in your body, causing physical sensations such as dizziness and lightheadedness.

These changes can create a state of heightened anxiety, which may trigger an episode of intense fear or discomfort.

Underlying Health Conditions

Certain health conditions, such as heart disease or respiratory disorders, can manifest physical symptoms resembling those experienced during episodes of intense fear.

For instance, heart disease can cause sensations like chest pain and difficulty breathing, while respiratory disorders like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can lead to breathlessness, contributing to unease.

Intense Physical Activity Before Bedtime

While physical exercise can help you cope with anxiety, intense workouts can stimulate your body and mind, increasing your heart rate and blood pressure. If you exercise close to bedtime, you may not be able to transition into a state of relaxation necessary for sleep, potentially leading to an episode of heightened anxiety.

Lack of Sleep

Sleep is crucial for our mental health as it allows our brain to rest and recharge. Inadequate sleep can disrupt this process, leaving your brain in a heightened state of alertness that can exacerbate anxiety symptoms, making you more susceptible to panic attacks. 

Lack of sleep can also disrupt the balance of neurotransmitters in your brain, which play a crucial role in mood regulation, making you more vulnerable to anxiety and tension.

Source: Andrea Piacquadio

Using Beta-Blockers for Occasional Panic Attacks

Beta-blockers are typically used to treat heart-related conditions, such as:

  • Hypertension
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Cardiac arrhythmias

These medications block the effects of adrenaline, slowing down your heart rate, reducing your blood pressure, and helping your heart beat more regularly. By reducing these physical reactions, beta-blockers can help reduce the intensity of a panic attack.

These drugs can also be beneficial in situations that typically induce anxiety, such as tests, interviews, or public speaking engagements. Two beta-blockers commonly prescribed for situational anxiety include:

  1. Propranolol
  2. Atenolol


Propranolol is a non-selective beta-blocker that blocks both beta-1 and beta-2 receptors found in the heart and lungs. This property allows it to exert an effect on both the cardiovascular and respiratory systems, which can be beneficial in managing the physical symptoms of panic attacks. Still, this also means it may not be suitable for individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma since it could potentially exacerbate breathing problems.


Atenolol is a selective beta-1 receptor blocker. It primarily works on the heart and circulatory system and is less likely to cross the blood-brain barrier. It’s generally the safer option for individuals with respiratory conditions like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) because it’s less likely to cause bronchoconstriction or exacerbate respiratory problems.

How To Get Beta-Blockers for Panic Attacks Prescribed

To get beta-blockers for panic attacks, you need a prescription from your healthcare provider. However, due to the stigma associated with taking these medications for performance anxiety, most people find it challenging to discuss this with their doctors.

Thanks to the rapid rise of telemedicine platforms, you can consult healthcare providers and get beta-blockers delivered to your preferred address, avoiding the discomfort that comes with explaining why you need these medications in person. Kick, a performance medicine clinic, lets you consult experienced doctors from the comfort of your home and get beta-blockers prescribed for situational anxiety.

Source: Alena Shekhovtcova

Kick—Your Partner in Managing Panic Attacks

Kick’s performance anxiety program is a game-changer for many people grappling with situational anxiety, which its fantastic reviews on Trustpilot confirm. If you experience occasional nighttime panic attacks or anxiety in specific situations, such as during presentations, interviews, exams, or even casual conversations with colleagues, Kick can help. Here’s how it works:

  • Brief online visit—You’ll have a quick, 10-minute consultation online
  • Access to propranolol and atenolol—Based on your health history and specific anxiety issues, your doctor will prescribe the appropriate medication
  • Discreet packaging—Your medication will be delivered to your door or local pharmacy in inconspicuous packaging, respecting your privacy
  • Regular check-ins—Kick offers ongoing coaching and support, including answering specific questions you may have concerning these medications

Getting Started With Kick 

To join Kick, follow three straightforward steps:

  1. Visit the signup page to start your quick consultation
  2. Complete a brief questionnaire to help us understand your health status and specific needs
  3. Provide your delivery and billing information

Our team will evaluate your case in one day. If you’re not the best candidate for the program, you won’t pay for the initial consultation as per our Doctor Guarantee.

Source: Leah Newhouse

Who Should and Shouldn’t Take Beta-Blockers

While beta-blockers can be beneficial for many individuals, they may not be the best option for everyone. Check out the table below for more details:

Who Can Use Beta-Blockers?

Who Can’t Use Beta-Blockers?

  • Individuals with heart conditions

  • People with high blood pressure

  • Individuals with irregular heart rhythm

  • People with situational anxiety

  • Patients with asthma or COPD (they may take atenolol)

  • Individuals with extremely low blood pressure

  • People with certain heart rhythm problems

  • Patients with certain respiratory conditions

Common Side Effects of Beta-Blockers

While beta-blockers are generally safe, they carry the risk of side effects. Still, most people who stick to their healthcare provider’s instructions don’t experience unwanted reactions. Check out the table below for a breakdown of the typical side effects of these drugs:

Common Side Effects

Rare Side Effects

  • Cold hands or feet

  • Fatigue

  • Dizziness

  • Dry mouth, skin, or eyes

  • Severe chest pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weight gain

  • Depression

This list isn’t exhaustive. If you experience any unusual changes while on beta-blockers, contact your healthcare provider.

Source: Tima Miroshnichenko

Alternative Therapies for Managing Panic Attacks at Night

While medication can be effective, several alternative therapies can help manage panic attacks at night, especially if they’re chronic. Five such methods are:

  1. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)
  2. Mindfulness and meditation
  3. Yoga and physical exercise
  4. Breathing techniques
  5. Sleep hygiene

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)

If you’re struggling with chronic panic attacks or social anxiety that affects your performance at work or school, CBT can be helpful. In CBT, you’ll work with a therapist to identify the thought patterns that lead to your panic attacks. Together, you’ll develop strategies to interrupt and remodel these patterns, which can help reduce the frequency and intensity of your panic attacks, including those that occur at night.

Mindfulness and Meditation

Mindfulness and meditation can be powerful tools in managing panic attacks. Mindfulness involves paying attention to your current experience in a non-judgmental way. You might focus on your breath, the sensations in your body, or the thoughts passing through your mind. Regular practice can help you become more aware of the onset of panic attacks and respond in a calmer, more controlled manner.

Meditation involves focusing on a single element, such as your breath or a mantra, which can help you cultivate a sense of inner peace and stability.

Yoga and Physical Exercise

Incorporating yoga or other forms of physical exercise into your daily routine can be a powerful tool in managing panic attacks. Yoga, with its combination of controlled breathing, body postures, and meditation, can help you reduce anxiety and promote relaxation.

Regular aerobic exercise like running or cycling can also promote the release of endorphins, your body’s natural mood boosters, and help you feel more relaxed and less anxious. You should exercise several hours before bedtime to reduce the likelihood of heightened alertness and sleep issues at night.

Breathing Techniques

Mastering specific breathing techniques can be a quick and effective way to manage the symptoms of a panic attack. Techniques such as deep breathing or diaphragmatic breathing involve taking slow, deep breaths, which can help slow your heart rate and promote a sense of calm. You can practice these techniques anytime you start to feel anxious, not only at night.

Sleep Hygiene

Improving your sleep hygiene can significantly reduce the likelihood of panic attacks at night. It entails creating a sleep-friendly environment and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule. Here are some tips:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule—Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends
  • Ensure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool—Consider using earplugs or a sleep mask if necessary
  • Establish a relaxing pre-sleep routine—Reading a book or taking a warm bath can help calm nerves before bedtime
  • Avoid stimulants—Refrain from consuming caffeine and other stimulants close to bedtime as they can disrupt your sleep

Featured image source: Jonathan Borba