How To Tackle Shortness Of Breath Caused By Wake Up Anxiety


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How To Tackle Shortness Of Breath Caused By Wake Up Anxiety




Anxiety exerts major effects on our physical health and well-being.

But one of the many symptoms of anxiety is shortness of breath, which is troubling when it happens first thing in the morning.

It becomes difficult to cope with feelings of breathlessness or tightness in the chest that generally arise from wake up anxiety.

Fortunately, there are ways to tackle this issue so you can feel better and focus on your daily life.


✅ What is Shortness of Breath and Wake up Anxiety?


Chest pain icon. Sick woman has difficulty breathing.


Dyspnea or waking up feeling short of breath is a frightening and disturbing experience. Shortness of breath, or dyspnea, can be caused by a variety of conditions but one potential cause that is often overlooked is wake-up anxiety.

Wake-up anxiety is a type of anxiety disorder where the sufferer experiences fear and worry upon waking, which leads to physical symptoms such as shortness of breath.

I will discuss the underlying causes, symptoms, and treatment options for wake-up anxiety associated with shortness of breath.

Wake-up anxiety disorders can affect anyone at any age but it is more common in young adults due to their higher levels of stress and worry.

It is characterized by intense fear and worries upon waking in the morning which leads to physical symptoms such as rapid heart rate, morning headaches, sweating, nausea, chest tightness, and shortness of breath.

These feelings usually subside after a few minutes but can be debilitating if left untreated. It is important to recognize these symptoms so that you can seek appropriate treatment from your healthcare provider.


✅ Causes of Wake up Short of Breath Anxiety


The exact cause of waking up gasping for air is not known but according to researchers, it may be linked to psychological factors such as stress or depression.

Other potential causes include lifestyle choices like drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes before bedtime as well as certain medications.


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✅ Symptoms of Anxiety causing Shortness of Breath


If you find yourself struggling to take in enough air or feel like your lungs aren’t working efficiently then this could be an indicator that you have dyspnea. 

Here are 8 common signs and symptoms of dyspnea: 

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest tightness or pain
  • Wheezing or whistling sounds while breathing
  • Excessive fatigue during physical activity
  • Signs of anxiety attack due to lack of oxygen
  • Rapid heart rate and palpitations
  • Coughing with phlegm production
  • Dry mouth


✅ 9 Factors of Shortness of Breath, Dyspnea


Shortness of breath is caused by a variety of factors. Some common causes include:


1. Cardiovascular Conditions


Feeing heart burn and panic concept.


Dyspnea can be a symptom of heart problems, such as heart failure, coronary artery disease, and pulmonary embolism.


📍Heart failure

A heart attack occurs when the heart isn’t able to pump blood effectively enough to meet the body’s needs. It leads to difficulty breathing due to fluid buildup in the lungs resulting in reduced oxygen levels in the blood.


📍Coronary artery disease

It is caused by plaque buildup along artery walls which reduces blood flow and causes chest pain and shortness of breath.


📍Pulmonary embolism

When a blockage (usually a blood clot) lodges into the pulmonary arteries in the lungs, preventing oxygen from reaching other parts of the body causes pulmonary embolism. This blockage causes shortness of breath, chest pain, and an increased heart rate.

It is important to recognize this symptom as it could be indicative of a serious condition requiring immediate medical attention.

Pulmonary embolisms are often difficult to diagnose due to their varying symptoms, however, typical indicators include sudden shortness or difficulty breathing, sharp pain in the chest that worsens on inspiration, and coughing up blood.

Other associated symptoms include lightheadedness or dizziness, rapid and irregular heartbeat, heart palpitations, congestive heart failure, and sudden changes in mental status or confusion.


2. Lung Conditions


Shortness of breath is a common medical complaint that affects many people. It can have a range of causes, from mild to potentially life-threatening.

Asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), and lung cancer are three of the most common culprits when it comes to shortness of breath. 


Phthisiologist, pulmonologist looks through a magnifying glass at lungs.


📍Asthma Attack

Asthma sufferers often experience shortness of breath due to constriction in the bronchial tubes, which makes it difficult for them to take in enough air.



It is an umbrella term used to describe any condition that makes breathing difficult, including emphysema and chronic bronchitis. Lung cancer can also cause shortness of breath by compressing or obstructing the airways.


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📍Lung Cancers

In some cases, tumors may even cause fluid buildup in the lungs which can lead to lung problems and difficulty breathing as well.


3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea


Shortness of breath can also be caused by symptoms of sleep apnea and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). 

Sleep apnea occurs when the person’s airway is blocked while sleeping. OSA specifically refers to a condition in which someone stops breathing for 10 seconds or more during sleep. If left untreated it can lead to shallow breathing or shortness of breath while awake due to decreased oxygen levels in the bloodstream.


Senior Man Snoring Upsetting his Wife


Symptoms may include fatigue, snoring, and dry mouth upon waking up from sleep. 

The cause of OSA is typically linked to physical obstruction of the airway such as an enlarged tongue or large tonsils blocking the passage of air during sleep.

It's important to see a doctor if you are experiencing shortness of breath, as it can be a sign of a serious medical condition.

Can anxiety cause sleep apnea? understanding the connection between anxiety and sleep apnea.


4. Anemia


A low red blood cell count can cause shortness of breath, as the body doesn't have enough oxygen-carrying cells to supply the body's needs.


5. Physical activity


Shortness of breath can be a normal response to physical activity, especially in people who are not used to regular exercise.


6. Anxiety


Dyspnea can be a symptom of anxiety and can occur during an anxiety and panic attack.


7. Obesity


Extra weight puts extra strain on the heart and lungs, leading to trouble breathing.


8. Pregnancy


Dyspnea can be a common symptom during pregnancy, due to the increased pressure on the diaphragm, and changes in the respiratory system cause you to wake up with shortness of breath.


9. Other conditions


Difficulty in catching your breath can also be caused by other conditions, such as thyroid problems, an allergic reaction, gastroesophageal reflux disease, a blood clot in the lung, panic disorders, or nocturnal panic attacks.


✅ How to Cope with Shortness of Breath From Anxiety?


Woman has Breathlessness.


Here are some steps you can try to manage shortness of breath caused by wake-up anxiety:


⚫ Practice deep breathing techniques

Take slow, deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. This can help calm your nervous system and alleviate anxiety symptoms.

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⚫ Use visualization techniques

Close your eyes and try to visualize a peaceful scene, such as a beach or a meadow. Focus on the sights, sounds, and sensations of the scene and try to let go of any anxious thoughts.


⚫ Try progressive muscle relaxation

Starting at your feet, tense and then relax each muscle group in your body, working your way up to your head. This can help relax your body and mind.


⚫ Get up and move

Physical activity can help reduce sudden anxiety and improve your overall well-being. Try going for a walk or doing some gentle stretches.

Tap to know how and which somatic mindfulness exercises benefit you


⚫ Seek professional help

If your shortness of breath is severe or is disrupting your daily life, it's important to seek help from a mental health professional. They help you identify the underlying cause of your anxiety and develop a treatment plan to manage it.


✅ Treatment Options for Anxiety Disorders to Catch your Breath


⚫ Medications

Medications are often prescribed to help treat dyspnea. Bronchodilators, which open the airways by relaxing the muscles surrounding them and allowing for easier breathing, are commonly used for this purpose.

Other medications such as inhaled steroids may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation in the lungs that lead to difficulty breathing.


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⚫ Therapies

Treating dyspnea can be a challenging endeavor. Oxygen therapy and respiratory therapy are two treatments commonly used to alleviate the symptoms associated with chronic dyspnea.


📍Oxygen Therapy

Oxygen therapy is aimed at increasing oxygen levels in the body to reduce the work of breathing and improve overall comfort. This may involve supplemental oxygen administered through a nasal cannula or face mask.


📍Respiratory Therapy

Respiratory therapists also provide education on effective breathing techniques, including diaphragmatic breathing and pursed-lip breathing, which can help patients manage their symptoms more effectively.

Two promising treatment options include continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). 


📍Continuous Positive Airway Pressure

CPAP is a type of machine used to deliver a consistent stream of pressurized air that helps keep the airway open during sleep. It reduces strain on the respiratory system and improves breathing quality in you with obstructive sleep apnea or other breathing-related issues.


📍Cognitive Behavioral Therapy


psychologist and her patient having video call


CBT focuses more on psychological aspects such as modifying behavior and thoughts to better manage symptoms. It helps you recognize how your perceptions may be exacerbating your dyspnea and teach coping skills to manage it effectively.

Remember that it's important to take care of your physical and mental health. Don't hesitate to reach out to a healthcare professional if you are concerned about your symptoms.


✅ Bottom Line


Gasping for breath due to anxiety is a serious issue that should not be taken lightly. It greatly interferes with daily activities, but it can be managed. Through regular exercise and relaxation techniques, combined with cognitive behavioral therapy and medications if necessary, you can reduce the intensity and frequency of their symptoms. Additionally, you should make sure to get enough restful sleep every night in order to prevent this type of anxiety from occurring in the first place.


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