Are you wondering how sleep and panic attacks go together?
They are connected in my mind because each of these phenomena has been in the media in the past week. And, they are intrinsically connected because sleep and panic attacks fit together like a hand and a glove
In the Sunday, March 25th edition of The New York Times Gayle Greene, a professor of English at Scripps College, and author of the book Insomniac wrote about her distress that sleeping pills are no longer recommended by the medical community. This morning, March 26th, I heard Tina Johnson, Editor-in-Chief of Women’s Health speaking about panic attacks on the Today Show.
Neither The Times nor the Today Show connected sleep and panic attacks. They weren’t mentioned in the same sentence. Putting these two together is the task of this blog!
Ms. Greene is afraid that doctors will stop prescribing sleeping medications because of the danger these pills carry. Recently a new study in a medical journal reported that people who regularly took sleeping pills were nearly five times more likely to die over a two and a half year period than those who didn’t take them. I agree with Ms. Greene. This is scary stuff.
Ms. Greene’s well-written article discusses the importance of sleep and reports on research telling us that sleep, even more than smoking, exercise or high blood pressure is indicative of how long we will each live. Ayurveda would take this one step further. Sleep, according to Ayurveda, is more important than even nutrition for our health and wellbeing.
Ms. Greene wants to continue to take sleeping pills to alleviate her insomnia and is more afraid of the dangers of sleep deprivation than she is of the medications. If she is aware that there are many natural ways to encourage sleep she doesn’t mention it.
In Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way Sandra and I discuss sleep and insomnia at length and offer many time-tested ways to encourage sleep. No one need suffer from insomnia and no one needs to feel as if the only solution for insomnia is to take a dangerous medication. As a matter of fact during a chemically induced sleep our body does not efficiently go through the myriad tasks it performs when eyes are closed naturally.
Sleep debt breaks the brain and sleeplessness goes against the dictates of Mother Nature. Ayurveda tips can absolutely prevent and cure insomnia and help any one suffering from this disorder to get their zzz’s by simply closing their eyes. Dangerous medications are not necessary to solve the problem of insomnia.
Tina Johnson told her listeners that an initial panic attack comes with no warning but subsequent attacks are triggered by worry about re-occurrence.. She spoke about bio-chemical imbalances and genetics causing panic attacks.
There is a correlation between bio-chemical imbalances and panic attacks but a correlation is not a cause. It simply implies a connection. It’s that chicken and egg story. Which came first the chemical imbalance or the panic attack? And, there are natural ways to balance brain chemistry. Sandra and I discuss these in Healing Depression the Mind-Body Way.
Genetics? Science now tells us that very little is genetically programmed. We have tendencies or leanings toward specific problems but if our physiology is in balance the problem need not come to us. In other words, just cause Mom had panic attacks you need not experience them!
Panic attacks are often triggered, Ms. Johnson, said by an upsetting life experience. Ayurveda would not disagree with her. We digest, ingest and assimilate all experiences at a cellular level. However, Ms. Johnson would have us try not to think about our upsetting experience while Ayurveda would have us focus on rebalancing the physiology. With balance comes the ability to not dwell on upsets.
Sleep enhances our balancing act. Panic attacks are most often, according to Ayurveda, triggered by an exhausted physiology. Upsetting experiences and exhaustion go together. Often when we are upset our routine becomes disrupted and we don’t follow a regular schedule. By not paying enough attention to how much sleep we are getting we begin to set the building blocks for a panic attack in place.
Sleep does affect mood. Like the low fuel light on the instrument panel of a car, the symptoms that accompany sleep deprivation are warning signals that you need to stop and refuel or suffer the consequences of running out of gas. A panic attack is one of these symptoms.
If you are experiencing either insomnia or panic attacks Ayurveda can help you. Breathing techniques, meditation, tips for enhancing and insuring a good night’s rest, nutritional tips, restorative yoga and the right exercise routine are all part of the Ayurveda repetoire. These natural remedies will help you to snooze and to avoid the terrible discomfort of panic.
Sandra and I send you a big wish that you will experience the contentment and good spirits that come with deep rest and blissful sleep!