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09 Apr 2004

Am I panicking at bedtime?
I don't know how to get rid of this panic feeling I get when I try to lay down to sleep at night. If I don't fall asleep right away, I start panicking that I won't get to sleep, then I'll be miserable at work. I think it's a mild panic attack. I get this warm, tingly sensation throughout my chest and arms. Then the adreneline gets going and I can't settle down to sleep. It hasn't happened in 3 months. Now I've been experiencing it for the past week. I'm losing sleep. I'm freaking out. What can I do to overcome this?
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Expert
CyberShrink
cybershrink

01 Jan 0001

Dear Lynn, Could be, at least it does sound like a crescendo of anxiety symptoms coming at that time, presumably related to your concerns about not sleeping well enough. And this often includes an issue of unrealistic expectations. Many of us don't fall asleep immediately ( check the forum, to see how often, and with what advice, we've discussed simple and common sleeping problems ). But if we don't let ourselves be bothered about this, we generally soon fall into a pleasant sleep.
If, on the other hand, we choose to focus on fears of NOT getting to sleep, the harder we TRY to get to sleep, the more we force outselves to stay awake ! If you allow this anxiety to increase, a common and unhelpful part of this response can be over-breathing --- we sigh, and take deep breaths, because anxiety may make us feel a bit breathless. But over-breathing swings the chemical balance of our blood in ways that cause odd feelings, including those tingling sensations --- and those then generally alarm us, making us breathe more deeply, worsening that symptom, and making us yet more anxious --- and so on. A typical form of vicious cycle.
Basially, the best first step is to recognize that actually we don't come to much harm from insufficient sleep, and to follow the usual slep hygiene advice ( ceck Forum archives, as I've discussed this so often ! ). If you haven't got to sleep in 10 minutes or so, don't lie there and panic --- get up and go to another room and sit for a while reading something soothing, or watching TV, maybe have a hot milk drink ; avoid coffee/cola/tea after 4 pm ; and so on.
When you start feeling drowsy again, go back to bed and expect to sleep.
You can also discuss this with your doctor, and maybe take one of the more recent sleeping medicines ( like Stilnox ) which are mild, but calming, and wear off before morning, generally not leaving one with a hangover effect. If neither of these two steps help, consider seeing a psychiatrist for re-assessment, and if there is more of a Panic Disorder or marked Anxiety Disorder present, he can recommend medication and other treatments for that.
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.
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