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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    How can u go back to sleep when u suffer from an anxiety attack within the night?

    I can be asleep and then suddenly wake up suffering with an anxiety attack
  • Find a professional to answer your question

  • Dr Joanne Dennison

    Counselling Psychologist, Counsellor, Psychologist, Psychotherapist

    Dennison Psychology is a private psychology practice, with a location in South Yarra (Melbourne). Appointments are available on weekdays (appointments available from early mornings through … View Profile

    Firstly, it is important to be sure it is an anxiety attack, as opposed to another medical problem.

    If it is an anxiety attack, you should try to relax prior to trying to back to sleep. You can do this by working to get your breathing rate back a normal/relaxed state. It is important to monitor the length of your ‘in’ versus ‘out’ breaths if you choose to do breathing exercises to relax; some breathing exercises energise, whilst others cause relaxation. Doing progressive muscle relaxation exercises may also help.

    If still feel unable to sleep, you may wish to have a warm drink (avoid caffeine and sugar) and/or a warm bath or shower, to help soothe you. You should avoid watching TV, as the type of light waves emitted from TVs can stimulate the brain and make it even more difficult to sleep.

    If you suffer from anxiety attacks regularly, you may wish to see a psychologist to assist you in identifying/addressing the cause and develop strategies to manage them.

  • 3


    Anna Crichton

    Clinical Psychologist, Psychologist

    Founded in 1996, Anna E Crichton & Partners Clinical Psychology provides psychological assessments and counselling with individual adults as well as psychological reports. With offices … View Profile

    I would suggest to lie down on your back or sit up in a chair comfortably. Place the palm of your hands on your lower stomach. Make sure that you can rest if you are sitting up. Focus on your exhales. Make sure your exhale is longer than your inhale. Form a small circle with your lips and blow the air out in a way as though you were going to whistle. You do not need to make the sound, especially if there is someone else next to you.

    So take in your breath in normally. Do not take too much in. You do not have to breathe in deeply, because otherwise you could hyperventilate. Focus on a long exhale. The exhale has to be longer than the inhale. And as you exhale, you press gently on your stomach. Do that for a few minutes, or if you are a little bit more impatient, do that for at least 10 long exhales.

    And this is the first aid for when you need to soothe your physiological system due to a panic or an anxiety attack. With a panic attack, if you do not have a brown paper bag, you simply inhale and exhale into your palms that you place over your nostrils and your mouth, which recycles the carbon dioxide.

    What is happening in this instance is that the alarm system of your brain, which is placed in the limbic center, suddenly becomes alarmed. This happens either through some sort of dream you have or some noise outside. Anything can really trigger it off. So it becomes overactive. Then you need to actually soothe it by making yourself feel a little safer. By placing your hands and pushing gently on your stomach, you are actually activating the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is the tenth cranial nerve, the nerve of the parasympathetic nervous system that soothes the limbic system. Also known as the fight or flight survival mechanism.

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