When you are waking up in a panic gasping for air it is highly likely you are having a nocturnal panic attack. Here is what you can do to relax, calm down and sleep better after an anxiety attack at night.

Free download: Nocturnal panic attacks – guided meditation

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Now, there’s two things, that if you’re an anxious type of person, that waking up in a panic gasping for air is likely to be:

Number one is a nocturnal panic attack. This will send your heart racing, and you’ll often be sweating and shaking and simply terrified. I will guide you through some steps that you can take to just help calm your anxiety down if you’re having a nocturnal panic attack.

Number two is you could be experiencing a laryngeal spasm from heartburn which is a common anxiety symptom.  I’ll just talk you through some steps about what you can do about that as well.

Either way, waking up in a panic gasping for air is perfectly manageable, and I will show you what steps to take to fix the issue.

Nocturnal panic attacks can have you waking up in a panic gasping for air

First thing, what this is most likely to be, if you’re waking up in the night absolutely gasping for air and you’re feeling sensations of terror, your heart’s beating out of your chest, you don’t know where you are, you’re feeling disoriented and you’re just super, super fearful, it’s highly likely that this is a nocturnal panic attack.

Now, this is something that I used to suffer from a lot when my anxiety was at its worst and this seemed to be in my late teens to mid-20’s, really.

3 steps to take when you are waking up in a panic gasping for air

Step 1: Switch on a light

I would wake up in the night with anxiety and my heart racing and I’d be screaming and I’d see like spiders coming out of the ceiling or the light falling down or snakes crawling over the bed, I had all sorts of illusions as a result of the nocturnal panic attack which just sent me into overdrive and I didn’t know where I was and I’d be like banging on the walls trying to get out, like, unable to find the door, not knowing where I was.

It wasn’t until my husband switched on the light that suddenly, everything would be illuminated, I’d come to and I’d know where I was.

So, I mean, that makes sense, if you switch on the light then a person is going to suddenly be able to see where they are and what they’re doing.

Energetically, when you shed light on a situation, it illuminates everything.

So, switching on the light brought light into my panic attack and eased the anxiety as a result.

So that’s my first tip. If you wake up in the night gasping for air, panic attack, I want this to become a little trigger in your mind: look for the light.

Search for it whether it’s a lamp next to your bed whether it’s the light switch on the wall, whether it’s a little torch that you have on your iPhone, torch, whatever it is, look for the light.

Find the light.

Switch on the light, get that happening because that will snap you out of it quickly.

And if you sleep with a partner or if you sleep with someone else in the room, let them know as well that that’s what they need to do: Tell them, if you wake up in the night screaming and you seem to be out of control, switch on the light.  Get them to help you.

Step 2: Calm yourself and know – It won’t happen again – that panic has passed.

If you are waking up in the night gasping for air and it’s a panic attack, just know that once you’ve come out of that panic, that panic attack can’t return again.

It’s been and it’s gone.  The panic has passed. You’ve been through it.

This is a very common theme with people that get nocturnal panic attacks, they wake up in the night when they’ve had one and they’re too anxious and scared to go back to sleep in case it happens again.

It makes sense.

Panic attacks suck! They’re the worst thing, they’re so fearful and they’re so horrible.

But here’s the thing:  Once you’ve had that panic, it’s highly unlikely you’ll have another one that night.

So, you’ve sort of been through it, the panic’s come and it’s crashed over you and the heart racing has settled down.

Once you’ve truly calmed down, the best thing you can do is go back to sleep and get the restorative rest that your body needs.

I don’t know about you by my nocturnal panic attacks were at their worst when I was tired, when I hadn’t been following the best nighttime routine.

I’d been getting to bed a little bit late.

Also, when I was eating stupid stuff before bed like chocolate and peanut butter and stuff, I found that that really sent my panic into overdrive and I would wake up in the night with these nocturnal panic attacks in the night.

Step 3: Rule out heartburn and laryngeal spasm

Now, eating dumb stuff before bed can also contribute to the third thing which is heartburn.

You could be potentially experiencing a laryngeal spasm.

If you’re waking up in a panic gasping for air and you can’t breathe at all, can’t get a breath in, can’t get a breath out, there’s a possibility – and I’m not a doctor which is why you should go see your doctor if this is happening to you – that your larynx is spasming because you’ve got a little bit of vomit that’s come up into your throat and your larynx has spasmed in trying to hold it all down.

Now, the thing is, with laryngeal spasms, it only lasts a few seconds but when you’re going through it, it feels like it lasts a lifetime.

So, how I got over this was, at first, my doctor put me on some heartburn medication. There’s nothing wrong with taking medication for things that bother you as long as you make plans, in the background when you’re taking your medication, to manage it yourself.

So, for example, with this heartburn medication, yes, I’ll take this until my symptoms settle and while I’m doing that, I’ll get myself into the habit of taking a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water every night after my dinner.

Then that really made so much difference to my digestion, to my feelings of heartburn, even digestive regularity.  A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in a cup of water really, really helped.

So I was able to come off that medication eventually.

Affirmation for night panic attacks: It is safe for me to go back to sleep

The reason why you’re waking up in a panic gasping for air is probably a combination of things:

It could be some physical symptoms that you’re experiencing that’s triggering this anxiety panic reaction.

But it’s really important to pinpoint with a logical mind while you’re awake, what is it?

Get past the fact that waking up in a panic gasping for air is terrifying. Get past the heart racing and anxiety of the moment.

Really, really think, “Was I unable to breathe in and out? Was I unable to do any breathing whatsoever?”

If that’s true, go and see a doctor and just get it looked into because it could be what I was experiencing which was laryngeal spasm.

If you’re waking up and you are able to breathe or if you’re finding that you’re only able to get breath in, you can’t get breath out or you’re finding that your breath’s racing, your heart is pumping out of your chest, you’re having that panic reaction, best advice: switch on the light.

Calm yourself down. Get well and truly calmed down.

Affirm: “I understand that panic’s not coming back tonight.  It’s not coming back, it’s done.”

And go back to sleep.

Get the rest that your body needs and stop eating stupid stuff before bed.

That’s what helped me the most.  Just eat your dinner, take your apple cider vinegar with your water and try to keep the load in your stomach as light as possible in those last few hours before you go to sleep.

Get enough sleep.  Go to bed at a reasonable time and get up at a reasonable time and you’ll just be a much happier person overall, trust me.

Best thing for you if you’re waking up in a panic gasping for air is to download my free Nocturnal panic attacks guided meditation. Download it and listen while you’re having a panic attack. It will lead you out of those really fearful feelings and bring you back into the light.

Love + light,

Eva xo