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Can Lack of Sleep & Nutrients Cause Panic Attacks?

by
author image Lucy Burns
Lucy Burns has been writing and editing professionally for more than 15 years. She earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Cornell University and a Ph.D. in American literature from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where she teaches writing. Burns is a certified yoga teacher and is also licensed to teach the Gyrokinesis movement system.
Can Lack of Sleep & Nutrients Cause Panic Attacks?
Good sleep and nutrition may help prevent panic attacks. Photo Credit Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images

Panic attacks, a type of anxiety disorder, involve episodes of extreme anxiety or terror out of proportion to any actual threat. They can come on without warning, in response to mild stressors or even while you sleep, and they can have intense physical symptoms such as trembling, nausea, racing heart rate, dizziness, sweating, cramps, chest pain or a choking feeling. Although several things can cause panic attacks, good-quality sleep and nutrition may help you avoid future episodes.

Sleep and Panic Attacks

Can Lack of Sleep & Nutrients Cause Panic Attacks?
Poor-quality sleep may contribute to panic and anxiety disorders. Photo Credit BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images

Researchers now believe that a frequent symptom of panic and anxiety disorders -- insufficient or poor-quality sleep -- may also contribute to their formation. The National Sleep Foundation reports that those with persistent insomnia have a significantly increased risk of psychiatric disorders like anxiety. Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine describes studies in which subjects who slept only four hours a night showed symptoms of stress, anger, sadness and reduced optimism.

B Vitamins

Inadequate levels of the B vitamins, especially B12, B6 and folate, may play a role in mental disorders. Vitamin B6 helps produce neurotransmitters and the mood-regulating hormones serotonin and norepinephrine. “Psychology Today” reports that in a recent Finnish study, vitamin B12 proved effective in the treatment of depression. Folate works with B6 and B12 to create dopamine, the pleasure hormone. Your body does not store folate, so you must consistently eat folate-rich foods or take a supplement. B vitamin deficiency can cause symptoms from irritability to paranoia, all of which can make you more vulnerable to anxiety and panic disorders.

Calcium and Magnesium

Can Lack of Sleep & Nutrients Cause Panic Attacks?
Magnesium supplementation improved symptoms of depression in magnesium-deficient individuals. Photo Credit Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Calcium supports the health and resiliency of the brain and central nervous system. A deficiency of this essential nutrient may cause symptoms of an anxiety or panic disorder. Your parathyroid gland regulates the amount of calcium in your body, but you should support its function by making sure you have adequate dietary or supplementary calcium. Magnesium deficiency can also contribute to neurological dysfunction, causing feelings of irritability, anxiety and depression. A 2006 study showed that magnesium supplementation improved symptoms of depression in magnesium-deficient individuals.

Supplementation

Can Lack of Sleep & Nutrients Cause Panic Attacks?
If you have panic attacks, you should seek treatment from a doctor or psychiatrist. Photo Credit shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

If you have panic attacks, you should seek treatment from a doctor or psychiatrist. Talk with your doctor about supporting your treatment with supplementation. Because recommendations vary depending on your age, sex, health and other factors like pregnancy, lactation or medications, let your doctor choose the right dose for you. Supplementation might include the adult daily recommendation of 1.3 milligrams of vitamin B6 along with 2.4 micrograms of B12, 400 micrograms of folate, 1,000 milligrams of calcium and between 270 and 400 daily milligrams of magnesium.

Diet and Lifestyle

Can Lack of Sleep & Nutrients Cause Panic Attacks?
A diet rich in dark leafy greens, oily fish, lean protein, whole grains and a variety of fruits and vegetables helps you maintain balanced nutrition. Photo Credit Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images

A diet rich in dark leafy greens, oily fish, lean protein, whole grains and a variety of fruits and vegetables helps you maintain balanced nutrition. To support healthy sleep, turn off your television and computer at least one hour before bed, and keep your bedroom dark, quiet and reserved for sleep. Avoid alcohol and caffeine, since they can disrupt sleep patterns. If sleep problems continue, see your doctor for other options.

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