Nocturnal panic attacks: clinical features and respiratory connections

Expert Rev Neurother. 2009 Feb;9(2):245-54. doi: 10.1586/14737175.9.2.245.


The clinical and therapeutic aspects of nocturnal panic attacks (NPAs) remain poorly understood. Some authors present NPAs as a more severe and less cognitive form of panic disorder (PD), whereas others treat it as a different manifestation of conventional panic attack. Overall, few articles address NPA relative to the large amount of literature regarding PD. Important aspects regarding the management of NPAs, such as the appropriate pharmacological and psychological treatment, rely on relatively few studies. This review provides an update and review of the most relevant articles regarding conceptualization of NPA, differential diagnosis, comorbidities, treatments, etiological theories and new investigations developed by various research centers. We also discuss the etiological hypotheses of NPAs, focusing on the suffocation false alarm theory and conditioned fear. NPA patients may represent a subtype of PD with specific agoraphobic features, respiratory connections and unique therapeutic aspects.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Night Terrors*
  • Panic Disorder*