Respiratory Disorders Expert Forum
Choking/panic attacks
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Choking/panic attacks

For many years I have suffered from waking up in the middle of the night choking and gasping for air. Although I've been told it could be apnea and/or panick attacks...The older I get..the more I worry about not being able to jump up and gaining control over them...especially when my heartbeat is palpitating 120. What can I do to 'prevent' these 'attacks'? Also, how does one distinguish apnea from a 'panick attack'?  My doctors all agree that it could be either/or. Anyone else suffer from this disorder?
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The way to distinguish apnea from panic attack is the time of day that the problem is happening.  Panic attacks can happen at any time of the day.  Apnea happens only during sleep.

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) is the back flow of stomach contents, including digestive juices, into the esophagus or food tube.  This is most commonly called acid reflux or heartburn.  This reflux can come all the way up into the mouth and nose.  When this happens the material can be aspirated, dribbling into the windpipe and lungs.  This could also explain your symptoms.

Sleep apnea is when breathing stops temporarily, for up to a minute at a time, during sleep.  This may happen several hundred times a night.  This can cause you to feel quite sleepy during the day.  Waking yourself up choking and gasping for air is very typical with sleep apnea.  However it is more common that the spouse notices first.

A sleep study is done to identify the nature of your problem while you sleep.  During a sleep study your breathing, heart rate, oxygen level, eye movement and brain waves are monitored while you sleep in a sleep lab.  A sleep lab is a specialized unit staffed by a team of health care providers and other specialists who have expertise in the study and treatment of sleep disorders.  Please check with your doctor to arrange for this testing.

If this is sleep apnea it does need to be treated.  The most common and effective treatment is the use of a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) device.  This is a machine that delivers air pressure into the lungs to keep the airways open during sleep.
6 Comments
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Avatar_n_tn
you need to get a sleep study done to check for sleep apnea.  They would be able to determine whether it was sleep apnea or panic attacks.  I would check into this right away as sleep apnea can cause a whole host of other problems also.  If it is sleep apnea, they will give you a machine and a mask to wear at night which will help to keep you breathing while you sleep.
Hope this helps.  I have severe sleep apnea.  If you have any other questions feel free to email me at ***@****  and I will try to answer them
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Avatar_n_tn
I would like to thank those who offered their help to my 'choking and/or panick attacts'. I failed to mention just one more thing. Some times I notice that just as I feel myself fall into a 'deep sleep' I can remember a few times that I actually felt my tongue back up into my throat. (I know that must sound wierd) but when it happens, I jump up right away. After a minute or two I go back to sleep. It seems to happen when I am very tired and fall alseep quickly. It feels as though I am 'swallowing my tongue'. Could this sympton be related to my 'sleep problem'? I have had sleep studies and they all came back 'normal'. As far as 'GERD' goes...you might be right on the target. I DO suffer from it and take Prevacid twice daily. Since I have stopped eating at least 3 hours before bedtime, I don't suffer from those 'attacks'. This whole 'sleep' problem though, has put such a strain on my life, that I find myself fearing going to bed at night. As a result of this fear, I have been sleeping sitting up on my couch (and only when 'complete exhaustion sets in) I feel like I'm losing my mind. Anyway, thank you all sooo much for your input! God bless!
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Avatar_n_tn
Dear Uma,

If the reflux is a big factor for your choking episodes, as the LUNG LINE nurse suggested was a possibility, I can relate. I used to have VCD/Vocal Cord Dysfunction attacks, including at night, partly due to reflux. The VCD was quickly diagnosed by Nat'l Jewish (as was my husband's VCD, also caused partly by reflux). Nat'l Jewish is very expert at diagnosing and treating VCD.

Another name for VCD is paroxysmal episodic laryngospasm, where the vocal cords close up, causing choking, cutting off the air flow in the upper airway. Reflux is a common cause of this. Sleep apnea can be a factor. There are many possible causes of VCD.

I too had to sit up, at that time, for fear of sleeping. Having VCD attacks wake one from a deep sleep, was scary!

What really helped us, was when we worked on improving our air quality, and, when we worked on finding our underlying causes of our reflux. Once we worked on finding and then dealing with these factors, the VCD stopped happening completely. What we did that helped us, is in my website.

Good luck to you!
Concerned lady
<a href=http://cantbreathesuspectvcd.com>http://cantbreathesuspectvcd.com</a>
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Avatar_n_tn
dear uma who we dont know plz write soon we r really worried,

our aunt has just had a really bad attack.She wasn't breathing right at all.It was like that for at least 6 minutes.From out of no where she had a resporitorial attack .She was gasping for air,and she was panting,she had no control of her body at all.Can you please PLEASE explain what has just occured.
                                XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~2gurlswitlotsofdramaintheirlife~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
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Avatar_n_tn
dear uma who we dont know plz write soon we r really worried,

our aunt has just had a really bad attack.She wasn't breathing right at all.It was like that for at least 6 minutes.From out of no where she had a resporitorial attack .She was gasping for air,and she was panting,she had no control of her body at all.Can you please PLEASE explain what has just occured.
                                XOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXOXO ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~2gurlswitlotsofdramaintheirlife~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
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