Having a panic attack at night is terrifying. I used to leap out of bed, gasping for air, completely convinced I was having a heart attack. Has this ever happened to you?
It would happen either just as I was falling asleep, or in the middle of the night when I was completely out.
This symptom is simple in my view - AWFUL, but simple: we hold our breath.
No, not consciously. This all happens subconsciously and preventing it from happening means you have to retrain the automatic reactions your body is going through.
Yikes! Sounds daunting, but it's really not. it just takes a little time.
Ok, but if the body is 'just' forgetting to breathe, then you can 'just' tell it to breathe, right? ;-) When you're asleep?? Of course not!
That's like asking someone to read with their eyes closed, which was just about the level of effectiveness I found with the suggestions I was given by others (such as practice deep breathing before I went to bed). How can I tell my body to carry on with some automatic process that for some unknown reason stops automatically occurring when I'm asleep?
I can't. And it resulted in a lot of nights where I was afraid to go to sleep, but there is actually a really good piece of information here:
When you wake up suddenly with a burst of adrenaline, your body thinks it is there is an acute danger present that you must fend off. What was the trigger? You might never know, and it doesn't really matter. The episodes will go away once you teach your body that it is safe, something it must relearn while you are awake.
So how do we do this?
Practice the feeling of 'safe' when you are awake, which you can do simply by daydreaming a scenario that is very comforting. Where would you go? What would a safe place look like? Take yourself there in your mind and notice where in your body you experience the feeling of 'safe.' This is similar to what you would do with the Invision Process.
Keep in mind that neither the mind nor the body can tell the difference between 'real' danger or 'imagined' danger. It is all the same, so put your mind to work to with intention instead of letting it run toward terrorizing thoughts by default.
Do this as often as you can to help the body create a new baseline state of being, one that has a reduced level of automatic stress responses, by adding it to your daily routine to stop anxiety.
And in the meantime, be kind to yourself. Always.