Sleep apnea or sleep disorder is characterized by a medical condition known as a hypopnea. Here, the concerned person experiences a breathing disorder during sleep. This being a serious medical condition may sometimes lead to fatalities. 

For most patients, sleep apnea may not be associated with any other medical condition; for others, it is. Sometimes, you may experience related to medical conditions such as bipolar disorder, panic disorders, depression, and anxiety. 

Sleep apnea is a medical condition wherein the concerned patient’s brain receives a panicking signal. This signal produces an alarming sign in the body to awake it and resume its normal breathing routine. However, this contributes to a sleeping disturbance. 

Physical body tests such as overnight sleeping pattern studies, electroencephalography, pH monitoring come handy for the physicians to study and evaluate the nocturnal panic attacks with the possibilities of developing sleeping disorders. 

A person suddenly waking up from his deep sleep due to chest pain or breath issues may feel both suffocated and dizzy. They might experience tingling of fingers, which makes them numb and contributes to a rise in anxiety attacks. 

Symptoms Related to Sleep Apnea Panic Attacks

The following symptoms are associated with panic attacks – 

  • Heart palpitations
  • Pounding heartbeat 
  • Shakiness
  • Trembling 
  • Sweating 
  • Hyperventilation 
  • Suffocation 
  • Loss of self-control 
  • Chest pain 
  • Choking sensation 
  • Nausea or abdominal stress 
  • Fainting 
  • Dizziness 
  • Lightheadedness 
  • Hot flashes or chills 
  • Numbness 
  • Sudden fear 

When does a person experience sleep-related panic attacks?

Obstructive Sleep Apnea, sleep-related laryngospasm, gastroesophageal reflux disease, sleep-related seizures, are certain medical conditions that make a person vulnerable to wake up from sleep, suddenly displaying symptoms of panic attacks. 

Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease

In this medical condition, the functionality of the lower oesophageal sphincter is disturbed for preventing the backflow of the digestive fluids from the stomach to the esophagus. This backflow process is medically referred to as reflux. In certain cases, the stomach fluids can make their way from the stomach right up to the throat. The fluidic acidity of this stomach fluid can generate a burning sensation or painful esophagus and throat. This burning sensation is due to the absence of a protective covering surrounding these organs. The refluxed fluid can generate a sour taste in the mouth. 

Obstructive Sleep Apnea

In this medical condition, the upper airway muscles go into a deep state of relaxation during sleep, thereby closing off the airway. As the person finds it difficult to breathe, he or she experiences a drop in the blood oxygen levels. Once the oxygen level is dropped below the average, the person wakes up from sleeping for a few seconds. This arousal facilitates the process of restoration of the muscle tone to the airway. Thus, the person is now able to take some quick and short breaths. Sometimes, some people may experience loud snoring due to obstructive sleep apnea. Snoring remedies or snore stop measures can prove to be helpful in this regard. 

Difference between a panic disorder and a panic attack

Panic Disorder

This is an extreme form of anxiety disorder associated with recurrent panic attacks. Studies carried out on the interlinking pattern of sleep apnea, and panic attacks highlight the higher counts of panic attacks in those suffering from sleep apnea than those who do not. Those who wake up suddenly from sleep with choking are more prone to experiencing the anxiety caused by sleep apnea. Furthermore, the continuation of the apnea episodes adds to an increased risk of panic and associated disorders. 

Sometimes, sleep apnea can alter the normal process and functioning of the brain structure over time. It contributes to decreasing the frontal lobe, thereby damaging similar brain regions. This is often noticed in patients suffering from panic disorders. Frequent sleeping obstructions can trigger a fight or flight response. Sudden waking from the sleep triggered by events associated with sleep apnea can accelerate the nervous system reactions, thereby leading to heart racing and doom feeling. 

Panic Attacks

A person suffering from panic attacks generally faces health complications associated with sweating, dizziness, heart palpitations, impending doom syndrome, sense of detachment from the reality, frequent reoccurrence of fear syndromes, and loss of self-control. Such panic attacks may either occur during deep sleep or may even happen during daytime due to sleep deprivation. In both situations, the concerned individual may face health complications such as anxiousness and fatigue. Sleep apnea does not only trigger the anxiety but even aggravate it. 

Sleep deprivation increases the risks associated both with panic attacks and anxiety symptoms. The associated biochemical reactions can contribute to a rise in the feelings of nervous and overstressed behavior. Both tension and stress can trigger a nervous system reaction, which further leads to short and shallow breaths. This may also result in carbon dioxide retention in the body, thereby triggering both fear and panic attacks. Hence, people suffering from sleep deprivation may incur the wrath of panic attacks. 

Panic disorder is an extreme form of anxiety disorder often accompanied by the frequent reoccurrence of panic attacks. 

The inter-relation between the processes of sleep deprivation and panic attacks is undeniable. If you are prone to sleep apnea and consider yourself to increase the risk of panic attacks, it is the right time to seek immediate medical assistance. As sleep apnea may be an alarming risk factor for the onset of panic attacks, the clinicians need to be aware of the comorbid conditions faced by the people suffering from sleep apnea. 

Coping with Late Night Panic Attacks

Here are a few ways in which you can help yourself in dealing with the late-night panic attacks – 

  • Never fight the demons that pop up in your mind when you face a sudden panic attack.
  • Try to relax your body back to its relaxed state and sit calm for a while. 
  • Focus your minds on some positive thoughts or happenings of your life. 
  • Go back to your bed only when you are ready to sleep 

Tips for preventing the onset of panic attacks

Here are some useful tips to avoid the onset of panic attacks – 

  • Take your time to relax your body to get back to sleep. 
  • Prepare yourself thoroughly for the beginning of the next day. 
  • Schedule a consistent sleeping pattern. 
  • Limit your intake of caffeine, sugar, and alcohol before you get back to bed. 
  • Get snoring remedies if you have snoring issues. 

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