Mental Health
Can Anxiety Make you Feel Like you Can't Breathe at Night?

Can Anxiety Make you Feel Like you Can't Breathe at Night?

4 min read


Jareena Silva

Can anxiety make you feel like you can't breathe at night?

Are you having trouble falling asleep at night due to anxiety and trouble breathing? This is a common issue among sufferers of anxiety. However, with the right tools you can learn how to manage your anxiety during the day so that when you sleep at night you can find more peace and rest.

Why do I have shortness of breath at night?

Shortness of breath, which is also called dyspnea, is often described as an intense tightening in the chest, air hunger, difficulty breathing, breathlessness or a feeling of suffocation. For many people, shortness of breath happens suddenly and unexpected. While other times, you may anticipate that you will experience it due to certain activities or external factors.

Causes of Shortness of Breath

There are many causes of shortness of breath. Some reasons may require immediate medical attention, but sometimes it's not serious such as doing strenuous exercise or being in hot weather.


Asthma is a long-term condition that occurs when your airways narrow making it difficult for your lungs to carry air in and out of your lungs.

In addition to shortness of breath, you may experience chest tightness, coughing, or wheezing. Asthma can be triggered by allergens such as pollen or pet dander. It can also be trigged by non allergens such as the cold or breathing in cold air.

If you believe you may have asthma, consult your primary care physician.


Obesity can lead to shortness of breath as extra weight in the body can force the respiratory system to work harder than normal. Since the body is working harder to move air through the lungs, a person can experience shallower or less frequent breaths.

If you're concerned about your weight, make an appointment with your primary care physician. You and your doctor can discuss and evaluate your health risks and weight-loss options.

High Intensity Exercises

After a strenuous workout, you may realize your breathing getting heavier. This is because your lungs are trying to keep up with the demands of your muscles as they're working harder than when you're not exercising.

When you're not working out, most people breathe about 15 times in one minute. However, during exercise this can increase to 40 to 60 times in one minute.

Extreme Temperatures

Sometimes in extreme temperatures, hot or cold, you may find your breathing change. This is because the body requires more oxygen to maintain it's normal internal temperature when exposed to extreme heat or cold.

In the extreme cold, some people find it harder to breathe as the air is drier and sharper. On the other hand, in extreme heat, the air might be very humid with heavy moisture in the air.

Experiencing Anxiety at Night

When having anxiety, some may experience shortness of breath because of changes in heart rate. When we feel anxious, typically, our heart rate increases.

We experience anxiety as our body's fight-or-flight response as it prepares us physically and/or mentally to either confront or run from a stressful situation or thought.

Shortness of breath can be one of those responses as well as chest tightness, faster breathing, muscle tension, feeling of suffocation, nausea, and more.

Anxiety can happen anytime, but for many it happens towards the end of the day. You may feel like your mind is racing. You may be thinking about all the events that happened that day or maybe you're worried about what will happen the following day. Here are ways you can cope with trying to find balance when worrying about the future.

What is Sleep Anxiety?

Sleep anxiety is the fear or worry about going to sleep. Sleep anxiety can affect anyone, at any age. Additionally, it can also be long-term or short-term.

If you have high levels of stress frequently, you may find it hard to feel calm at night, which causes interrupted sleep patterns. You may experience a hard time going to sleep. And, if you do fall asleep you might not be able to sleep throughout the night.

Healthy Sleep Habits

In order to practice good sleep hygiene, you may want to look at your nighttime routine. Your healthcare provider or mental health provider can help you identify ways to incorporate healthy sleep habits on a regular basis. If you're looking for a mental health provider, take our Get Matched quiz to get matched with up to 3 providers based on preferences that are important to you.

Here are some things you can try tonight to help improve your sleep hygiene:

  • Avoid caffeine in the late afternoon or evening. Try drinking a decaffeinated herbal tea before bed instead.
  • Do a relaxing activity before bed such as listening to calming music, meditating, or breathing exercises (here are 3 to get you started!).
  • Stop using any electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed. If you're constantly on your phone or laptop while in bed, you may be experiencing revenge bedtime procrastination.
  • Try to avoid a large meal right before bed and instead have a light snack.

If you're looking for ways to improve your sleep tonight, try these 5 tips! However, sometimes getting into a good sleep routine takes a long time. In this case, you may want to consider psychotherapy to help support restful sleep.

How Therapy Can Help with Sleep

Getting restful sleep every night is important to our overall physical and mental health. If you've been experiencing sleep problems, you may want to consider psychotherapy. Therapy is effective to help improve quality sleep because the therapy centers around the underlying causes of your sleep deprivation, including mental health disorders and coping with chronic pain.

Your mental health provider may use various techniques and methods to address your concerns with your sleep. One common form of therapy used to treat sleep disorders is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia, also known as CBT-I.

CBT for Insomnia (CBT-I) is a form of therapy that aims to increase the body’s connection between sleep and bed, improve sleep hygiene, and establish healthy sleeping habits.

If you're experiencing anxiety and shortness of breath at night, there are different paths to explore in order to find more calmness and rest in the evenings. If you are worried about your sleeping patterns, talk to your primary care physician or a mental health provider.

If you're looking for support from a mental health provider now, share your preferences with our Get Matched quiz to get matched with up to 3 providers that are the *right* fit for you. Get matched and schedule your free consultation today.

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About the author

Jareena is MyWellbeing's Community Manager and is dedicated to supporting MyWellbeing's providers in order for them to offer the best possible care for you. Jareena is a mental health advocate and aims to identify ways to destigmatize discussions around mental health and how to make care more accessible.

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