In our stressful lives, it should not be surprising that a good portion of us is sleeping less soundly than previous generations. Most of the time a lack of deep sleep is related to how we function during the daytime. For the majority of humanity the whole sleep and awake cycle is voluntary that is mostly defined by the clock and hence is of no major concern, which is simply how some people are. However, there are those in whom the balance is indeed a very delicate one. When this balance is upset there is a sudden onset of inability to sleep that, in the initial stages, manifest as a lack of restfulness after waking up. This problem can reach chronic proportions quickly. Most people who seek medical attention for this problem will complain of any of the following three symptoms. Insomnia, daytime drowsiness, and irregular sleep behavior. Insomnia is more common than the other two symptoms and it is estimated that more than 25% of people are affected with different stages of insomnia. According to studies, women, elderly people, and shift workers are the ones who report more cases of insomnia than other segments of the population. Certain mental disorders like depression also cause insomnia. Sleep panic attacks are quite common among people who do not get regular sleep.
More than half of the people diagnosed with panic disorder suffer from nocturnal or sleep panic attacks. Although only 10% of all panic attacks happen at night they are still an issue of concern. Sleep panic attacks are bad because the patients begin to fear the nighttime and especially going off to sleep. They fear that during the sleep panic attack they will be comatose and hence unable to do anything if they suffer something violent. The cardiac arrest like symptoms most prevalent during sleep panic attacks make these people afraid that they might die if they have an attack while they are asleep.
Sleep panic attacks are not caused by dreams. This is known because medical studies have shown that sleep panic attacks happen during the early stages of sleep and not the REM phase when dreams usually occur. There are other disorders that are far severe than insomnia and they will often resemble sleep panic attacks in their symptoms because the victim will often wake up with palpitations, fear, shortness of breath, sweating, and so on. This type of sleep disorder occurs during the deep sleep.
Sleep apnea also causes the patients to wake up suddenly and though this sort of thing is not associated with any anxiety there is evidence indirectly linking it with sleep panic attacks since sleep apnea affects heart rate and blood pressure.
The precise reason for sleep panic attacks is not yet known. It is suspected that possible causes might include a build up of carbon dioxide in the body, a condition that is known as “false suffocation alarm" that causes the body to respond by strenuous breathing and rapid heart rate.
Sleep panic attacks are influenced by the events of daytime, alcohol, drugs, depression, and stress.
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