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Breathing and sleep problems - is this anxiety?
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Breathing and sleep problems - is this anxiety?

About ten days or so ago I got sick, and had a few days of severe lethargy, illness, and I-hate-life depression. All that has gone, but as a result of this I've developed some breathing symptoms. My chest feels a little heavy, I feel short of breath, and if I try to sleep my breathing slows down until I wake up gasping for breath. After a week of no sleep, my Doctor said nothing was wrong with my physically and put me on Ambien to get my sleep cycle back to normal and said I had anxiety and that it would go away.

Does this sound familiar to anyone? Does anyone have any suggestions or recommendations to getting my breathing back to normal?
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Avatar_f_tn
It sounds like you have sleep apnea, which causes one to stop breathing in their sleep, and this is why you wake up gasping for air.  Your doctor should have addressed this, and put you into a sleep study to detrmine if this is the cause.  My husband has this and he experienced exactly what you are.  He had to do a sleep study and was found to have sleep apnea, and now has to wear a Cpap at night to makes sure he doesn't stop breathing.  Also, with your other symptoms I would see a cardiologist to make sure all is well with your heart.  You always want to rule out all other causes for your symptoms before assuming it's anxiety. Sleep Apnea is very common, and I wouldn't be comfortable accepting that it's anxiety at this point.  Get your heart checked out, and go from there.  If it all turns out to be anxiety, please let us know so we can support you with this. Take care...
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Avatar_m_tn
I did an overnight pulse oximetry test, but haven't got the results back. My Dr. thinks it's anxiety because it came on so fast. I normally sleep like a baby. The sleeping plus the daytime breathing symptoms came on suddenly, and he couldn't find anything else wrong. I can't get back to see my doctor for a week :(
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Avatar_f_tn
Not everyone wakes up when they stop breathing, or remembers waking up.  But at your age no offense, I'm older)  I would want tests done on my heart  before assuming it's anxiety.  If it is anxiety, it may go away and may not, which you will then have to address further.  If it's the breathing problem making you anxious, it should subside.  Did your doctor perform any tests on you heart? I assume your BP and pulse are okay as well?  You should know when your test comes back.  My husband was told the morning after his test how many times he stopped breathing when asleep.  Stay with us, there are others who can offer more advice, and will be jumping on to help you.  Do take care....
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Avatar_m_tn
Let me give you a bit of background. My BP is 125/85 or so - I take meds to keep it down, hydrochlorothiazide and atenolol, plus simvastatin for cholesterol. I've been taking these for a year or so, and they seem to be working well enough. I had a physical less than a year ago, full blood workup, etc., all normal.

I sleep like a baby. If I did have any apnea prior to this, I'm totally unaware of it. Maybe I did, but it has never caused my any symptoms that I've noticed. I've never had a chest pain in my life.

So out of the blue I get a ringing in my ear and some flu bug that is going around that causes extreme lethargy - wife had it, friends had it, and I got it. Ringing in ear was making me miserable, and everything combined just about did me in.

So I started noticing this strange breathing issue where I started feeling out of breath, like I had to consciously breathe. It wasn't severe, but it was uncomfortable, annoying. I could exercise, chop wood, etc., so it wasn't a capacity issue, and it mostly did it at rest. A day or so later I started developing the night time issue where I could not sleep because of the apnea - this *never* happened before!

Most of the symptoms are gone - ringing in ear is diminished to the point where I seldom notice it. Only the breathing issue remains, and after about a week with no sleep, I saw my Dr again and he decided it was anxiety. I had no other symptoms at all, but plenty of causes of stress in my life. This happened when I was sick and really down. He gave me ambien to get me sleeping again and said to wait to see if that was enough to get this to clear up - plus some advice on dealing with the stress - I have a few stress sources, and now have a reason to deal with them and the anxiety they cause. It's been three nights since the ambien. It gets me through the night, but I guess it hasn't really been long enough to be sure if anything is changing.

So, I'd so very much like this breathing issue to go away just as quickly as it came. Tired of feeling like I can't catch my breath. I found a few books on anxiety at library. And I'm open to any suggestions or advice :-)

And no, Dr. did not do any heart tests. I think since I had no other symptoms and no chest pains etc. he decided that cardiac tests were not necessary.

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Avatar_m_tn
Oh, and just to throw a monkey wrench into the works, I eliminated caffeine from my diet a week ago...I used to drink 2-3 cans of Mt. Dew a day, and I've been off of it for over a week. I've given serious thought to drinking it again until I'm over this breathing issue but after a week of no caffeine, I'm not sure going back would do me any good.
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Avatar_f_tn
Well, I know anxiety can manifest itself in many ways, and in varying degrees of severity.  People do have isues like yours with anxiety, but normally have ruled out heart problems first.  Have you seen a therapist for your anxiety?  If not, this would be very beneficial.  There is always a root cause for our anxiety and once we discover through therapy what that is, we can deal with it and usaully move on without the anxiety.  Breathing exercises help, we tend to breathe more shallow when anxious.  So breathe deeply in through your nose and slowly out of your mouth 8-10 times when your anxiety is rising.  Exercise is excellent as well.  Stopping the caffeine is wonderful, all that caffeine will really get you going, I avoid it totally.  Wish I could get rid of the ringing in my ears, I've had it for several years.  It's very loud and if I dwelled on it I'm sure it would make me crazy (crazier).  Do let us know how your test turns out, and there is a lot of support for your anxiety here, so stay with us as I"m sure others will jump on with some great advice for you. Take care...
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Avatar_m_tn
I have a good handle on the causes of my anxiety in that I know what it is - I have for a while now, I just didn't know it could hit me like this! I have quite a few sources of anxiety, and in my case they are easy to work through. I guess that is one thing I have in my favor :-).

Thanks for the hint about breathing exercises - never thought of that. Deep breathing actually feels reeeaall good. Weight loss is on the top of my list, I've actually lost several pounds in the last few weeks. We take long walks every day now as there are several real nice parks along the river that are just a few miles away. Caffeine is gone and I'm going to keep it away this time. Hmm...what else?

This whole episode has given my cause to rethink my priorities - family, time with children, spirituality, etc. Been an interesting time of retrospection. Problem with taking a deep look at ourselves is that we don't always like what we see...but then, how can you change things that you aren't aware of?

Another night. Ambien summons. One day real soon, it's going to wear off and I'm going to just keep on sleeping...can't wait.
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Avatar_m_tn
I was wondering if others can input some advice on how long it takes to get over this? I have made significant lifestyle changes this last week, and addressed the sources of my anxiety. In my case, I know where it comes from, and realize the behaviors that sent me into this cycle. For several days my breathing was better, but today I seem to have taken a turn for the worse - I didn't sleep well last night, and was sleepy and had troubled breathing most of the day.

Does this thing just take time to clear up? Can I expect to have up days and down days as I work through this?
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Avatar_m_tn
I am also very open to medication if it will help. My Dr. is a regular MD, should I see a specialist? Also, what medications are known for being most effective for this?
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Avatar_m_tn
i have the same problem zootal .. cant breath well sometimes ,, i went more than 20 doctors .. i make blood test and mri and city scan , and ear test , and testing the o2 in the blood .. all is normal resault ,, then i went to the final doctor he said to me that you have enxiety and panic attack .. so i started to take cipralex 10 mg and he gave me xanax .25 mg .. cipralex 1 pill aday and the xanax if i felt so bad of the attack i take 1 pill ,,, still now taking the cipralex since 1 year and 3 month ,, sometimes i feel i cant breath well so i can make some hot ment to drink ,, makes me relax and it will go .. the good thing that there is no one died from this attacks ,,,
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Avatar_m_tn
I never did find out what caused this. One doctor suggested a stroke, another a virus, another suggested anxiety. No one was ever able to give me an answer. In time the breathing problem diminished. Today it does not effect my sleep, and I hardly notice it during the day. And no doctor I've visited has had a clue.

I can tell you this much - none of the drugs the doctors wanted me to take helped a bit! One doctor gave me ambien, which I later found to be extremely addictive. It took me months of little to no sleep to recover from the ambien usage. Ambien is a drug from hell, and should be banned.

Good luck my friend. Go to the library and check out some books on anxiety. Look up anxiety self help on line, you will learn a lot of stuff that will be more helpful than what most doctors would tell you, it's free, and won't leave you addicted to drugs that may or may not help.
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