How to Not Get Anxiety Attacks at Night

Here is a question asked by Chibi from Yahoo! Answers about anxiety attacks:

Why do I get anxiety attacks at night?

It really bothers me because I’m afraid of having a heart attack. It prevents me from sleeping. I’m also very weak and I flinch or wake up to the quietest sounds.

Does anyone else experience this? Can you help me out?

Hi Chibi, thank you for asking this question. As you may know, anxiety is a common health problem for many people. In the U.S alone, it is reported that anxiety disorders affect 18.1% of adults in the United States (approximately 40 million adults between the ages of 18 to 54). Therefore, you can be assured that you aren’t the only one having this problem.

I understand your fear of having a heart attack. Facing the possibility of death is an urgent fear that can prevent anyone from getting a good night’s sleep. I am sorry to hear that this is the condition that you are facing every night.

It seems to me that you are weak because you aren’t getting proper sleep. Your anxiety keeps you up at night, and you are unable to fall into a deep sleep. As a result, you flinch or wake up to quiet sounds.

If I am right, you are frustrated because you can’t get sleep due to your anxiety attacks. The more sleep that you lose, the more frustrated you become. This can grow into a vicious cycle, fast. Therefore, it’s important to solve the problem as fast as possible.

Where is the anxiety coming from?

The first step to curing your anxiety attack is to identify where the anxiety is coming from. It’s not always easy to isolate the causes of anxiety. However, according to WebMD, it can be caused by a mental condition, a physical condition, the effects of drugs, or a combination of these.

Common external factors that cause anxiety is stress. Stress can come from work, from school, from relationships such as marriage, and also financial stress. Knowing what is causing your anxiety can help you to reduce their effect.

To help you know, you can ask these questions:

  1. What are you most anxious about in your life right now?
  2. Where are you most frustrated in your life right now?

It could be problems related to money. It could be your relationships you have with other people such as your parents or your husband if you have one. It could also be a relationship with yourself. Maybe there’s a deep resentment that you feel about where you are in your life.

It could also be problems related to your health, which is directly related to your anxiety attacks. The more you lose sleep, the weaker you become and the more anxious you become about being weaker. This makes you lose more sleep and ends up being a vicious cycle.

Take your time to write down these answers. Preferably write them down in a journal. I personally find writing a journal is a cathartic exercise. It can purge your mind from toxic thoughts that will linger there if you don’t properly express them in one way or another. Writing is often said as cheap therapy so you can try that option especially if you like writing.

For example, during one time in my life I was quite anxious about the amount of money that I made. It didn’t make me lose sleep, but it made me very unhappy when I was awake. It affected all other areas of my life. It made me less productive in my day job, so I made even less money which made me worry even more.

It wasn’t until I admitted that this money problem was a problem. I went on to figure out how I can solve it. My anxiety decreased and I was able to make more money.

The deep belly breathing exercise to reduce anxiety

Once you’ve identified your source of anxiety, it’s time to intentionally reduce it’s effect on you. The problem can still exist, but the effect it has on you can be reduced to a minimum amount.

Like I said, I was anxious about how much money I made. Obviously it would take time to change that condition. I had to reduce my anxiety first before I could actually start making a better income.

You might not be able to eliminate your anxiety entirely, but you can certainly manage it to a level low enough so that you don’t lose sleep and functionality.

The simplest way to reduce your anxiety is to practice mindfulness. Mindfulness means being present in the moment. Simply being present can reduce the accumulated effect of the stress and the pressure you feel from everyday activities.

One simple exercise to practice mindfulness is by doing belly breathing:

  1. Do a deep breath through your belly and expand your belly as much as you can
  2. Continue that with a deep breath in your chest
  3. Hold it in there just for a moment
  4. Exhale it out from the belly first and then from your chest

Watch this video for a visual demonstration:

This is a simple exercise that you can do at any time. You can even do it while you’re in a meeting room. You can do it on the bus or train after you come home from and you want to reduce the stress from that day. You can also do it when you have an argument with your husband or with your parents.

You can do this breathing and it will immediately stop the building of stress and pressure.

This exercise is similar to the Participant and Observer exercise in the Crack Your Egg program. If you already do the deep breathing exercise but you need to reduce the stress and pressure more, the next step is to read the article that I wrote about this specific exercise. It takes a little bit longer but can give you more results to help reduce your anxiety.

I hope the simple questions above can help you get clear on where your anxiety is coming from. Once you get clear on it, you can focus on that area of your life. Do the simple deep belly breathing when you are in the environment or with the people in that environment. You can also use the Participant and Observer exercise to help you get more stress relief.

Eventually you will reduce your anxiety attacks. You will get more sleep and your body will start to heal. This reduces your anxiety further and you can get better sleep. Once you get better sleep, your fear of having a heart attack will be gone.