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I wake up panicking. Is this normal?

Hi Mark! I have suffered from anxiety and panic attacks for over eight years now. But lately, my sleep has been severely disturbed. I wake up almost every night with anxiety, heart racing, etc. I can't seem to get out of this cycle.

Is this normal for panic sufferers or could it be something else? Thank you in advance for your time.

This question was submitted by 'Jennifer'

mark tyrrell

Mark says...

Hi Jennifer and thank you for writing in.

One misconception about sleep is that it is always restful and relaxing. It certainly isn't always.

Or, to put it another way, some parts of sleep are restorative and restful (slow wave sleep) and other parts are much less restful and can even be exhausting (REM or 'dream sleep'). When we feel good in life, we spend about 75% of our sleep time in slow wave sleep and the rest in dream sleep, dotted through the night.

But when we worry too much about the future or the past during the day, then we find that time spent in dream sleep increases and we don't get as much slow wave sleep.

This is the reason why, for example (and I'm not suggesting you are depressed), depressed people dream much more during a depressive episode and also why depressed or very anxious people can wake up exhausted in the mornings after sleeping. They're experiencing too much REM sleep and not enough slow wave restful sleep.

If you are worrying a lot at the moment and misusing your imagination during the day to create scary visions of your future - stuff that could go or might be going wrong - then you will be dreaming more at night as your brain tries to process all the unfulfilled expectations. The dreams (whether you remember them or not) won't be pleasant ones and because you'd be dreaming more, you are more likely to wake up from an unpleasant dream in which you feel panicky. And then you will still feel a bit panicky when you awaken. So this is a normal pattern.

Of course, it's good to get your physical health checked out, but rest assured this is, or can be, a symptom of too much daytime worry.

As you relax more during the day, your sleep psychology will reflect this, you will sleep more restfully, and those panicky feelings will fade away. If you take any drug products, then of course you need to check that side effects don't include anxiety and/or disturbed sleep.

I suggest you use the 'Overcome Panic Attacks' Pack and also the 'Sleep and Dream' session.

All my best,


watch icon Published by Mark Tyrrell - February 9th, 2015 in

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