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Heart or breathing stops during sleep?
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Heart or breathing stops during sleep?

I am having a problem where my heart or breathing stops after I've fallen asleep, and I wake up panicking.  I've tried to include as many details as possible.

I first experienced this on a business trip.  I went to China for the first time in February, 15 hour plane ride and 12 hours time difference.  I took 5 or 6 Dramamine during the trip so that I wouldn't get sick and slept the whole way.  So after arriving, I felt on schedule; I fell asleep at night and woke up in the morning.  But in the evening, I would get this "weak" feeling in my chest, similar to what I feel when I have bouts of heart palpitations.  It felt as if my heart was slowing down or skipping more often the more I fell asleep, and then after I fully fell asleep, I started waking up in the middle of the night feeling as though my heart had stopped, and was pretty terrified.  I think I had panic attacks right after I woke up, which I have never had before.  I think I had one during dinner one day, too.  I felt as though I could not let myself fall asleep or I would never wake up again, and so I would jerk myself awake all the time (like trying to not to fall asleep in an early morning class in college).

They took me to the Chinese hospital, which did an EKG and a blood test, and said I'm fine, though I don't know how far to trust them.  (And of course my heart never skips while someone is watching it.  Only when no one is around.)  I have had EKGs in the past to look at the heart palpitations, and they didn't show anything, either.  (I have been getting palpitations for a few years, either a "skipped beat" while beginning to exhale or a fast heavy beat that feels like THUMPTHUMPTHUMP instead of THU-thump .. THU-thump .. THU-thump.) My brother gets premature ventricular contractions, so I wouldn't be surprised if I do, too.  They gave me Chinese xanax, anti-psychotic, antibiotics, and ginseng.  The anti-psychotic helped to relax me.  I tried to go to sleep early that night, but woke up suddenly again and was in a trembly panic state, so I took the pink pill, and warm calmness washed through my body, but it made me feel drugged and strange and I only took it once.  The Chinese xanax seemed to help, so we thought maybe it was just stress, but the same thing happened while recovering from jet lag at home, too, when I was not stressed.  My mother's doctor said that sometimes people get sleep apnea from the pollution in China, but it's been happening since I got back, too.  While riding in the limo home, I would doze off and be woken by the tingling sensation in my hands.

Since then, it has been happening more and more often, though, just at home.  I am not sure if it is my heart that has problems or if it is my breathing, since I am fast asleep when it happens.  Sometimes I wake up and feel as though my body has "forgotten" to inhale, and I breathe in deeply a lot in a panic to try to counteract it.  Other times I am woken up by my heart fluttering or skipping, though maybe this is caused by the lack of breathing?  I don't know much about medicine, but my impression is that my body's normal system for regulating breathing has stopped, I breathe out and it never tells my lungs to breathe in again, and then my body parts panic from the lack of oxygen and wake me up with some kind of chemical signal since the normal nervous system paths aren't working correctly.  I feel a strange emptiness or numbness in my left hand and right foot, kind of like pins and needles from poor circulation, but not really.  It still feels strange half an hour after I woke up.  I went to bed around 1 AM, probably fell asleep around 1:30 AM, and then woke up suddenly around 3 AM.  If I intentionally breathe out and never breathe back in again ("hold my breath out"), I get the normal reflex of feeling a need to breathe in, so I don't know how this could actually happen during sleep.

I am 26, 6 feet tall, 155 lb.  This is certainly not the kind of apnea where your throat gets blocked.  I don't smoke, don't drink caffeine, don't do drugs, and drink alcohol rarely.  My heart rate an hour after I woke up suddenly (4 AM) is 72 beats per minute.  I don't really feel lightheaded when I wake up.  I often have anxiety of various forms.  I do spend the majority of my time on the Internet on a laptop, probably with poor posture, bending my neck at odd angles (is there ANY good posture for laptop use?  probably not.)  I try to exercise, but only do a little.  Running on an elliptical for half an hour maybe once a week, lifting small weights and doing sit ups maybe twice a week.

It seems to happen more often if I go to bed late and if I don't eat enough dinner (bad habit from procrastination, I sometimes ignore it, go to bed hungry, and eat more in the morning so that I don't have digestion problems while sleeping).

I know I should see a doctor about this, but I apparently have some kind of doctor phobia.  I went to the doctor just last week about a puncture wound in my toe, and fully intended to ask about the sleep problem during the same visit, but chickened out while sitting in his office.  I don't know what's wrong with me. I don't want to die in my sleep.
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Avatar_n_tn
Just for clarification, obstructive sleep apnea happens at all ages, sizes, and fitness levels.

Heart arrythmias are common in sleep apnea.

You will see the doctor when your fear of dying in your sleep is greater than your fear of doctors. The irony is the thing you fear (the doctor) could rid you of your other fear (dying in sleep). Embrace a good sleep doctor as your best friend.

If I were you I would run and not walk to get an overnight sleep study in a lab. The more you stop to think about things, the more you'll procrastinate. The study can distinguish between ostructive and central apnea, and monitors your heart and brain waves. Everything you need to know.

Most people with sleep apnea don't die in their sleep - but some some do, so your concern is legitimate. Most just find their health and their life deteriorating over time.

The sleep study involves no pain. No needles. It is a royal pain to try to sleep all wired up, but not painful. Just consider it an investment in your health and your future. You seem very detail oriented, so I'm thinking you will be fascinated with so many details the report will give you. Ask your doctor for a copy to peruse as much as you are interested. Just do it.
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Avatar_m_tn
Today my heart feels very "weak" and is "skipping" a lot.  I only got 4 hours of sleep and was sick to my stomach from being nervous, so I stayed home from work.

I'm pretty certain it's not obstructive.  I don't feel anything in my throat, I don't believe I snore, I don't have a choking sensation or anything.  It feels as though my body is relaxing so much it stops trying to inhale.

When I first started getting heart palpitations a few years ago I went to a doctor about it.  He did an EKG and basically just shrugged me off and said I'm fine.  He had me wear a Holter monitor but I never found out the results of that, and I don't think it caught anything anyway.

Maybe a year later I was having lots of palpitations one day, several per minute, and went to the emergency room.  They did an EKG and X-ray and said I was fine, made a mistake on a test and lectured me about doing drugs, even though I don't, and it was just a waste of time and money.

Then a few months ago when I was having the sleeping problem in China I went to the Chinese hospital.  They did an EKG and a blood test and said I'm fine.

I think a sleep study would be a good idea, but I don't know how to find a place or sign up for one.  I don't have a regular doctor and have only been to this guy at a clinic three times.  He doesn't seem very thorough.
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Avatar_m_tn
I used the elliptical for 10 minutes and measured my heart rate at 170 bpm afterwards.  It seems to be more stable now?  Not sure.
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Avatar_n_tn
Follow your gut feelings. Tell your doctor you have an irregular heartbeat and you want a complete cardiac workup. An EKG is not a complete cardiac workup. Tell them you're having periods of weakness (which is what I do with PVC's). You should at least have a stress echo. And if that's ok, asks what else can be done. Don't be blown off. See a cardiologist and tell them you feel you have not been taken seriously. Go from there.
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Avatar_n_tn
What your heart does or does not do during ok periods does not erase the symptoms of your concern.

Again, a sleep study would monitor your heart overnight. Whoever this doc is at the clinic, just tell him you wake during the nite with irregular heartbeat and you want a sleep study. If he balks, ask him what you have to do to get one. This is not the time for you to bow down. Stand up for yourself.
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Avatar_m_tn
Yes, I should really see a doctor, and I'd like to, but I don't know where to go or how to find one.  
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228686_tn?1211558307
This may seem silly, but I've suffered from this on and off for years. I find, however, when I don't sleep on my back or stomach the problem rarely arises. Don't suppose you've noticed anything like this?
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Avatar_m_tn
I haven't noticed a correlation like that.  I've tried a few different positions and the same things seem to happen.  Not sure though.
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Avatar_n_tn
Go to your insurance company's web site for a list of providers, then start calling. See who can get you in first.
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Avatar_m_tn
That's what I tried first.  I ended up knocking on the door of some house, because they listed an old address, and then when I went to the doctor's office the doctor I was trying to see was dead.  Another one at the same place saw me, and was the first one to tell me I'm fine and brush me off.  Is there a better method?  I am pretty sure I have bad social anxiety.
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Avatar_n_tn
Who do you know and trust who is good at taking care of business? Tell them you need help. Your social anxiety may improve once all this is resolved.
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Avatar_m_tn
Sigh.  My heart has been skipping all week.  It's an off-and-on thing.  I wish I knew what triggered it.
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Avatar_n_tn
Glad you are feeling better at the moment. Still need to follow thru with getting checked out. Can't the clinic doctor refer you to someone? Let us know how things go.
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Avatar_m_tn
Yeah I really should get this checked out.  The heart palpitations are on and off for days at a time, and the sleep thing happens every few weeks.  I guess I can go to the clinic doctor.  I wish I weren't so irrationally fearful of making simple phone calls.  It's not that I *can't* call and make an appointment, it's that I avoid doing it, and procrastinate indefinitely.
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Avatar_m_tn
You know, I work with lead solder a lot over the past few years.  I read that lead in the body can cause nerve problems.  Does this sound like a likely connection?
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I was having sleep apnea and didn't know I was having it.  Thank goodness I went to the dr. I quit breathing over 280 times in 3 1/2 hours.  That was on my back. I would of never dreamed I had this problem.  Hey listen to KatEyes she is very in tune with sleep apnea and all that's associated with it. I'm sure glad I listened to her.
I hope you pick up the phone and call before your body starts to have major problems like mine.
Hey KatEyes where was you in my life when I needed the best advice I ever got.  I know I've only been a member since June.
Good Luck Dun!
Dee
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Avatar_f_tn
Hi,

The symptoms that you are experiencing are quite possible due to sleep apnea. Other causes can be acid reflux and excessive anxiety.
Please consult a doctor as soon as you can.
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Avatar_m_tn
I finally mustered up the courage and got an appointment for tomorrow morning.  We'll see what happens.
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Avatar_m_tn
He said the EKG is within normal range and he thinks it's just anxiety and not sleep apnea.  He gave me a prescription for xanax and a blood test for thyroid problems.

Meanwhile my heart says:

skip


skip


skip

SKIP

SKIP SKIP SKIP

:(
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Avatar_n_tn
Ok, I'm going to try to stay off my soapbox, but daggone it, even people with anxiety can have other reasons for poor sleep, and it is a doctor's responsibilty to rule out those possible medical causes. You did good making this appointment - I know you said this was difficult for you to do. An EKG that takes minutes is just a screening tool - not your final answer.  It is good they are testing your thyroid, because it could account for some of your symptoms. If it comes back normal, please tell your doctor that you need answers and that you'd like to either be referred to a sleep specialist or have them order a sleep study so that you'll know everything possible is being done to make your life better.

Dee, glad you're on your way to getting better. Better late than never, right? Just wish it didn't have to be late for so many of us. Take care.

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Avatar_m_tn
To summarize:

* Went to a doctor in like 2004 about heart palpitations, did an EKG and said I seemed fine, I was too awkward to follow through with more appointments.

* Went to the emergency room about palpitations in 2005, waste of time and money as they made a mistake on a urine test and lectured me about being on drugs, I had to spend the rest of the night there doing more urine tests to prove that I wasn't, and just wanted to get the hell out of there as fast as possible.  They also did chest x-ray, EKG, and blood tests.  They eventually changed their minds about the drugs, told me I was fine and to avoid stressful situations.

* Went to hospital in China in February about sleep problem and palpitations, did EKG and blood test, they said I looked fine and gave me antibiotics and ginseng.

* Went to doctor yesterday about sleep problem and palpitations, did EKG and said i seem fine and it's just anxiety.

Ugh.

They're certainly right that I have anxiety (hell, they probably conclude that my problem is anxiety the instant they meet me because of my personality), and it certainly makes the palpitations worse, but this stuff happens while I'm relaxed, too!  Caffeine and alcohol make my heart skip, too.  Does that mean the problem is caused by caffeine?

There's gotta be something medically wrong with my autonomic nervous system that is *aggravated* by these things, not *caused* by them.  Lots of other people are stressed and drink caffeine and alcohol every day of the week without anything like this happening to them.
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Avatar_m_tn
I mean, he asked other questions, too, like "do you wake up tired", and I answered no, so I'm sure he's not just guessing about it.  But to say it's "just anxiety" seems wrong to me.

When I wake up, I don't feel tired or exhausted, like I've been exercising.  The best way I can describe it is that I fall asleep and then wake up dead.  I start to become conscious in the middle of the night, and feel as though I've exhaled without inhaling, my heart has stopped, and my hands and feet have died.  Of course I then panic and wake up the rest of the way with a start, and inhale deeply and wiggle my fingers and toes and check my pulse, and after I move my hands they feel normal, and my breathing is normal, and my pulse is there and my heart is pounding.  It's very strange and maybe it's all in my head, but it's frightening.

So I have to go to a lab for the blood test, and then what happens?  Will the doctor's office call me when they get the results, or do I have to contact them?
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Avatar_m_tn
And the palpitations often occur right as I transition from inhaling to exhaling, which is why I feel like the breathing regulation and heart regulation are both involved.  When I'm having palpitation episodes, I can usually feel a "weakness" or "tension" in my chest, and can almost predict when it's going to skip.
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Avatar_n_tn
It is happening while you sleep. Get a sleep study. If you do stop breathing as you describe and have an episode during the study, it will pick it up. Hopefully you would have one during the study that could be observed.

Until you have a sleep study to rule out some sleep disorders, all else is a maybe. With anxiety, it is easy to overthink things. Please, give yourself a break. You need to be able to sleep without worrying - it's important to both your physical and mental well being. If it all comes back normal, maybe you'll be able to relax a little about it.

I know I can tend to be single-focused, and I'm not always right. I'm not a medical professional. But it doesn't take a medical degree to think if something happens only during sleep that any daytime tests aren't likely to capture the problems. I really think you should just get a sleep study. You need those answers to know where to go next in researching this. A good sleep doctor should hear your symptoms. I don't know what else to say to you except get a sleep study. Tell the same doctor you want to be referred to a sleep doctor or have them order the study.
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Avatar_n_tn
Just one more thought - if getting the sleep study is just too much of a sticking point right now, how about start with asking the doctor to order an overnight recording oxygen monitor for a few nights - or until you have an episode. Since you feel you stop breathing, that is medically justified. If you have an episode while wearing it, there may be fluctuation in your oxygen level. You can do it in your home. Maybe that's a first step you'd be more comfortable with.
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Avatar_m_tn
Another thing: I saw my family this weekend and found out my brother has the same skipping PVC? palpitations.  For both of us, they occur in episodes of a few weeks, and when they occur, it's once every few minutes.  He doesn't have the sleep thing, though.
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Avatar_m_tn
I got the blood test and got a card in the mail with a box saying "Results: Normal" checked off.  Nothing else.

I started taking a potassium supplement, and I think it's helping, but I still had skips today.
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Avatar_m_tn
last night i remember waking up in the night, more than once, and felt like heart was fluttering, felt my pulse and couldn't feel one, coughed hard to make it beat normally.But I was very asleep so it could have just been a dream.
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Avatar_n_tn
I don't know what else to say. The mother in me wants to grab your hand and drag you to a doctor and demand a sleep study. Reality is, you've got to do things for yourself that you feel are best for your own well being. Maybe you don't have a sleep disorder and this is all anxiety. But what if a sleep disorder is causing much of your anxiety? It happens. My personal opinion is that you should tell your doctor you'll take the medicine AFTER he has ruled out ALL other possible causes, including getting a sleep study.

Maybe you think the sleep study is bad advice. That's certainly your call. I won't bug you any further about it. It's the last time you'll hear it from me. I just hope you find answers and are soon sleeping without the problems you have. Oh, you've had episodes since going on the med, right? The prescribing doctor needs to know that. It would be a perfect time to tell him you want a .... oh, wasn't gonna say that again. Sorry.
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Avatar_m_tn
Well, he said the Xanax was to "take as needed", so I've only taken a few of them.  I had the same thing last night, and I know I wasn't imagining it.  So maybe it's heart palpitations in my sleep that wake me up.
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Avatar_n_tn
I experience this EXACT same thing. You describe it perfectly...feeling like you're trying to exhale before you inhale. It jolts me awake...I fall back asleep minutes later only to have it happen again. No reason has been found, other than anxiety. I get the palpitations if I breathe in deep, just before I exhale...when I'm awake. The sleeping part is the worst, because it truly does feel like I wake up dead...I remind myself that I am still breathing, but it's terrible because it happens over and over again. For me, it happens only occasionally...and more during times of stress. I may go a week or two without it happening and then have it happen three days in a row. It definitely happens more if I think about it happening (or rather, if I try to think about it not happening) before I go to bed. I've tried finding any thing I can to correlate to my issue and you are the first thing that seems to match exactly. I am 27 and have been healthy my whole life. This has started happening in the last year and a half.
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Avatar_n_tn
I also frequently experience restless leg syndrome, which I have not sought treatment for. I don't know if all of these things have to do with anxiety or what...I do suffer from social anxiety as well...which is also left untreated. I'm too scared to go to the doctor even though I know they could help me. Catch 22 huh?
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Avatar_m_tn
I've been taking potassium supplements and have had very few heart palpitations.  I have not had trouble sleeping, either, except for one night where I woke up suddenly and felt nauseous.  But it was not the same sensation as before.  I think maybe I was just being awoken by heart palpitations.
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Avatar_m_tn
Potassium (as Potassium Asporotate)
(Aspartate, Citrate, Orotate (milk))

99 mg
1 tablet per day
3% Daily Value

This seems to be working.  3% doesn't seem like very much, though.  Anyone know why it's so low?
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Avatar_n_tn
If the potassium supplement is working you may have an adrenal issue.  Possibly low aldostrone i think it regulates you salt water potasssium balance.  When that system is off your electrical system that regulates your heart and breathing gets off.  Ive been researching it alot.  I have had it for awhile and the docs cant figure it out.  It gets really bad when I travel especially if there is a time change.  Look up adrenal insufficiency and also pots place, could be that too.  Are you affected by the heat also??
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Avatar_m_tn
I have not noticed it having any relationship to heat.

I will look into the adrenal insufficiency, though it doesn't seem like I have many of these symptoms.

"Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome"?  That seems more like it.  My heart skipping does seem to be strongly affected by my (bad) posture, and I sometimes have increases in heart rate after changing position (often because of a bad habit of nervously holding my breath, though, which seems to cause major problems when I then change the shape of my torso).  Also some bowel problems, which is apparently related.
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Avatar_n_tn
Yes pots or dysautonaumia affects everything including your digestion.  My doctor put me on cymbalta and it helped completely in 4 days I still cant believe it.  All those breathing problems are just my autonomic system.  If you research this you will see they treat it with antidepressants or beta blockers.
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Avatar_m_tn
Wow.  I went to the same doctor today to see if I have strep, and I heard him talking in the hall about me.  "You know who this is?  ... yeah, he's hopeless...  and only 27 ..."  

So I guess now he thinks I'm a hypochondriac because I finally got up the nerve to see him about the heart palpitations.  No one takes it seriously.  I guess if you see a lot of bad injuries and stuff, things like this seem trivial, and I have a very awkward personality.

But still, this is why I procrastinated going to a doctor for six months about it.  Social anxiety = fear of being judged = doctor thinking I'm paranoid.  Which he does.  Great.
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Avatar_m_tn
Google spell-corrects it to "dysautonomia".
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Avatar_n_tn
I am not able to help you with your anxieties, but I can continue to encourage you to see a sleep specialist and get a sleep study. If you need to, take someone with you to your appointments.
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Avatar_f_tn
i have the exact same thing EXACTLY, and they think we r crazy lol
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Avatar_m_tn
I went through 6 years of horrible migraines, hair falling out, horrible nightmares when I could sleep, insomnia, awful sense of doom and huge adrenline surges that did wake me up.  I'd have horrible feelings of doom and would pass out alot, mostly when I was sitting, or hot, or under alot of stress.  Chest pain always followed the fainting. Many MD and ER visits, EKGS that were deemed not significant, a treadmill that wasn't "significant either" and of course they all thought i was crazy.  did the Xanax and antidepressant thing.  Had low BP, low pulse and was told I had the heart of an athelete for years.  I walked 1 hour a day about 5 days a week.  During a run one day I collapsed.  Went to ER was almost ready to be discharged and dismissed (again) when another nurses aide took my pulse, called a new nurse and they called a cardiologist.  Turned out I had Sick Sinus Syndrome, Orthostatic Intolerance (Dysautonomia) and Orthostatic Hypotension.  I was 44 years old.  Ended up with a pacemaker and have had to make some life changes.  I do still throw PVCs and PACs a couple of times when exercising and about 3 short SVT episodes since it was implanted 2 years ago, but life is so different., so much better now.  Your stories sound so familir, so please don't give up, find an "electrician" cardiologist who can look into other causes for you.  If you are in the California call Dr. Christopher Oh at Central Coast Cardiology in Monterey, CA  to see if he will talk to you.  Hang in there, God bless you!!!!!!!!
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Avatar_m_tn
I forgot to add, other wierd symptoms or problems I had with the disorders were problems "sipping" soup or drinking through a straw, fainting while drinking ice water, bowel problems/IBS for  years.  When I'd have the horrible nightmares, I'd wake up with a huge gasp and sit straight up and scare my husband.  My resting Heart Rate would average 45 BPM but when my disorders were finally caught in the ER it was between 35-43 and my head had to be elevated and they would't let me sleep until the pacemaker implant.  I was not an ironman athelete so pulling off a 45 BPM pulse was NOT normal as many docs had told me before.  My cardio doc said it was the adrenaline kicking in to save myself.  Dysautonomia is a strange disorder.  With the pacemaker implant for the sick sinus syndrome all of those symptoms eventually disappeared.  With your young age as with mine at the time,i was told that is why I was dismissed by all the MDs and ER docs for not thinking there was something wrong with me.  Plus I was female.  
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Avatar_n_tn
Wow! I've been experiencing the exact same symptoms as Dun Dun...  I'm 32 and I've been having this for a couple of years now... on and off... it's the most messed up feeling in the world... waking up with the feeling that your heart's stopped and you can't breathe...

I've changed my diet thinking it's GERD... but this condition is totally random...  Sometimes I'll eat heavy food in the night and have  a blissful night's sleep... Other times a heavy meal in the night means not being able to sleep through the night...

I do sit in a posture which is not good... but can bad posture really lead to such an extreme condition (dysautonomia) ??? I can't believe it... :S

The days when I can sleep without this happening, I tend to oversleep because who knows when I'll get a peaceful sleep again...

The doctors look at me like I've gone mad... Sure stress might play a part in it... but doesn't stress just affect just about everything? This is much more specific... and seriously one of the worst feelings in the world...

Has taking the Potassium supplements helped?
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Avatar_m_tn
"but can bad posture really lead to such an extreme condition"

I don't know.  But I do know, for a fact, that when I recline in certain positions my heart will start to skip beats.  I don't know if it's pressure on nerves, or changes in blood pressure, or affects on regulatory systems, or what, but after I panic and change my position, it goes back to a normal heartbeat.  It's like lying on my side with my head twisted a little, I'm not sure how to describe it.
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Dont completely rule out anxiety disorder will you cause that causes lack of sleep, heart palpitations, skipped heart beats and panic attacks. It definately sounds like you have sleep apnea but it also sounds like you have an anxiety disorder which causes the palpitations. When i get stressed a lot a month later i will get palpitations and pain in chest. Make sure you get a full blood count too just to check your balance of body functions.
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Avatar_m_tn
I too have been getting the same problems as you,i have over the last two and a half years had attacks of svt,vtac vfib and others,but now i have the sleeping problems some nights are fine then others i wake up several times sometime with a v/fast heart rate others normal? I do get the feeling that my heart/breathing has stopped and my body will jerk me awake like a last ditch effort to keep me alive,may sound over the top but that is how it feels.I have had this for about 5 months hopeing it will go away,but i think now is the time to get a sleep study. Will post my results when i get them....good luck.
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432097_tn?1318552340
Don't let this doctor be your final answer.  I have the exact same problem and they have done an echocardiogram, a stress test, all kinds of heart related tests and said that I have a "stiff" heart, which is basically that it doesn't go into the "relax" stage for long enough.

Also, I'm on another forum here about endocrinology problems, and there are horror stories about people (including myself) who have doctor hopped for years trying to get a diagnosis, but you can't stop.  Doctors just don't take the time anymore, and they don't want to do the expensive testing because of the medical cuts, etc.  You have to be your own advocate.

When I go into a doctors office now, I have an entire notebook of my research from reputable places like the Mayo Clinic or the Endocrinology Foundation and demand they answer my questions.  If they don't, I leave and find another doctor.

You can have anxiety and sleep apnea, but remember that sleep apnea causes a fear of falling asleep and you will wake up with a start as your body knows your not getting enough oxygen.  A simple home test can rule this out.  My doctor had an oxygen tank sent to my home, and a pulse ox meter sent over.  I wore the pulse ox (the thing they put on your finger to measure your oxygen when you go to the doctor) for one night without oxygen, and it measured my oxygen levels as I tried to sleep.  Then, the next night, I wore a small oxygen tube hooked to the tank to sleep (it's better than that big CPAP machine) and it definately showed that I had sleep apnea.  Now, I just wear the small tube every night.

The best way to measure all of this, however, is to have a sleep study done at a sleep center, they can tell you what else is wrong, and if you do have anxiety, biofeedback could help.  I don' t know where you live, but I am having problems finding one of those, I may have found one in another town, but am on a waiting list because this is so prevelant.  Remember too that any type of sedation or sedating medication is not recommended if you have apnea because it puts you into a deeper sleep and your body doesn't wake up when your oxygen levels go down.  If you get a sleep study done, ask them if you can see a doctor that works with biofeedback or cognitive behavior modificaiton and if they don't have a doctor that does that, then start searching the net for one in your area.  Good luck.
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Avatar_m_tn
This was so crazy to read other people having this same problem. Been going to doctors for the past 2 years, and have told me the same thing, "anxiety". They put me on a pill that lowers my heart rate, and also on Potassium supplements. I was told I had a heart murmur and that I was born with it. I did alot of stupid things in my early 20's and figured those drugs are what did me in. And to this day even if the Doctor says that I was born with it I still felt like it was my own fault. Now reading these boards I am amazed to hear how very simular our symptoms are, I mean extremely simular. I am 30 years old and have been dealing with this for 2 years now.
I also asked the doctor why now am I feeling this, and never before now if I was born with it, And his answer was, because I am old enough now to be worried about my own mortality and am paying attention to my health more because I have kids.  THat was just wierd to me.

Ps. Sorry everyone I know I write like a 3rd grader, always had bad grammer skills

I must say thank you to all I finally don't feel alone or stupid for these health problems that i just get told is anxiety.
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Avatar_m_tn
hi my name is roelof and im 25.i have a stressfull problem.as soon as i go to sleep i stop breathing and i will jump up feeling realy bad.this happens evry day of my life.its getting realy scary as i dont realy know what to do.people say im just stressed and over worked,but i know its something else.please can someone help me
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Hello Dundun:

I hate to say it, but I have the same problem (and it's not natural in my case), and it scares the doctors more than me. I don't go to doctors, but recently had chest pains and went in - I was diagnosed with type II Diabetes (and was born with a genetic predisposition for it and didn't know it - I'm 44), and the chest pains were from stable angina coupled with high blood pressure. That was 6 months ago, and since, I have lowered my cholesterol, A1C, blood pressure, and triglycerides, however the chest pains persisted and I went to see a cardiologist.  He insisted I get an angiogram/angioplasty/stents. I had three blockages - two were in the right coronary artery, right next to one another. One small one was on the left. They installed two stents in the right artery (the left is going to be dealt with using medication unless it presents a problem). The night of the surgery, I was very tired, but couldn't go to sleep because of a medication I was told not to take to control my glucose levels - that and the RNs had to keep checking my bandages every half hour or so, and I had a 20lb sandbag on my waist. Anyway, I was very drowsy, and dozed off. A minute later, I woke up (as you described), with what appeared to be the entire hospital staff in my room - I asked what happened, and they said my heart stopped for 18 seconds. I felt nothing prior to it happening and nothing after - just drowsed off and woke up. This repeated 3 times that evening before I forced myself to stay awake. My cardiologist came in and could not explain why it was happening, and they discharged me. The best guess they had was it was a new medication they gave me (Effient) combined with another medication (Metoprolol). Although I am no longer in the hospital, I think the problem is still occurring, as I wake up much as you describe, and my heart seems to be fluttering. I have on order a pulse oximeter, which has an alarm if my heart rate goes out of range just so I know it is really happening. Otherwise I have appointments with my GP and cardiologist in the next two weeks.

As far as your fear of doctors goes, I look at mine like this: I too didn't like to see doctors/was afraid, but after I had 3 angina attacks, I had to do something - seeing the GP and getting the initial diagnosis wasn't too bad, but some of the things which followed went like this: treadmill test (very bad), visit to cardiologist - good. Surgery - not something I would care to experience again: I am extremely tickelish, and shaving the area was almost unbearable, then the anesthetic was extremely painful for about 30 seconds - the procedure was quick (~45 minutes), and I had a great surgeon, but the rest of the ~24 hours or so that I was there could be described as uncomfortable at best. On the plus side, my angina appears to be gone, but this heart stopping problem is the next biggest concern.

Lancey1
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Avatar_f_tn
DunDun,

Have your thyroid levels checked.  I'm a young, fit female who started having heart arrhythimias a few years ago, as well as the same symptoms you describe (mild social phobia, cessation of breathing during sleep, etc.).  I have never used drugs, don't drink often, am a non-smoker.  My thyroid levels were WAY high.  As soon as my body started to feel the effects of the medication I was on, most of my symptoms ceased occurring.  However, the one sympton that remains is that I still occasionally feel I stop breathing in my sleep, and it's concerned me enough that next week I'm going to see a pulmunologist who will probably recommend a sleep study for me.  I know that I have an irregular sleep pattern, but I have never been diagnosed with sleep apnea.  Anyway, it would be a good idea to have your thyroid checked.  Your symptoms could be related to a thyroid issue,  most likely hyperthyroidism from what it sounds like if you do have a thyroid issue.  If you are having thyroid issues, they're nothing to mess around with and can really impact your health, even be deadly if untreated - so please get checked.
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Avatar_m_tn
Hi, I am dealing with a similar problem, and it's extremely scary. When I drift off to sleep, it's like my heart and breathing stop. I wake up with confusion and a rattly feeling in my chest. The entire left side of my body is also very numb/dead feeling. The numbness lasts for a while and only goes away after I walk around and stay awake for a few hours. At some point, I am actually able to sleep without incident, and I somehow keep waking up the next morning. I've also been told that it's stress related, and I believe that to be true. If I've had a few glasses of wine, I go to sleep and stay asleep without incident. I don't want to get on drugs, but maybe I should go to a sleep study. The scariest part is waking up with half of my body numb and my heart racing.
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Avatar_m_tn
Ive got EXACTLY  the same thing. Went doctors, referred me to hospital NHS Uk. Done blood tests, ECG and oximetry and nurse said to me "bet you're one of these people who thinks the worse of everything". Now I fear the only way I will be listened to and believed is to die from it.
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Avatar_m_tn
I have the same problem waking up from sleeping. I thought i was half imagining it as i could never decide if it was my heart or breathing that stopped. Also i get jerked awake when almost asleep. I tried to explain my symptoms to the doctor, bit ended up leaving feeling like a hypochondriac. Now the only nights i fall asleep and stay asleep is after a few beers.
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Avatar_f_tn
I have the same problems that most of you are talking about and I'd have to say that I agree with the general advice given in here. A sleep study is the best way to diagnose these kinds of problems. For Dun Dun and the others the best way that I've found to get into a doctor that will understand where you're coming from and can get those sleep studies done is an ENT (ear,nose and throat) doctor. I have anxiety and heart problems so I'm used to the "we don't know" statements. I got into my ENT today and after talking to him for a few minutes he gave me the appropriate referral. Don't give up hopes guys. The help is out there :)
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Avatar_m_tn
I have had similar problems for years. I wake up generally during the beginning of my sleep. I wake up with a sensation that I have stopped breathing. When this happens I scream out "help". and go back to sleep and it keeps happening finnally at some point I am able to sleep. My husband tells me I wake up about 20 times each night. I was told to go to a sleep clinic but I've herad you have to wear a mask and I have clostephopia (not sure it's spelled correctly.) My doctor perscribed Loraepam 1 mg tablets. It helps some but found that I have to take another pill after waking up during the night. This helps but tells me my problem could be panic attacks or stress.
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Avatar_m_tn
Hi all, I have the exact same symptoms, plus a few more, I'm male, 33 in good general health and been having this for about 18 months, doctors rekon its anxiety, i'm on beta blockers which dont appear to be helping, I', going to a phsycologist to try and sort out my anxiety which i have never suffered from in the past, I also have dramas during the day, but I think thats anxiety because i can kind of bring it on by thinking about it. I get real bad shakes but they feel like they are on the inside, no one else seems to notice, I go pale, my hands and feet sweat, I feel real weak, shallowing breathing, and feel like i ahve to concentrate on my breathing, I get nausuaish, and feel stoned. I think having a couple of classes of red wine before bed seems to help me sleep, but not always, the thing that gets me is that it seems to be totally random, I can go a couple weeks feeling great and sleeping fine and then one night it'll happen all night till i finally dose off for good, its a scary feeling waking up short of breath and shaking feeling weak and barley being able to site up and reach for a glass of water beside the bed which seems to help. So not sure if this is cuasing anxiety or is the anxiety cuasing this!?  
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Avatar_n_tn
I'm having the same problems, exact as Dun.   Having a hard time convincing the Dr's and myself.  When at the ER or hooked to a EKG, everything looks normal.  Dun's early comments about its like waking up dead, is exactly how I feel at night.   I tell my wife, you can't explain or convince Dr's what it's like to awake feeling like this and still be alive.  Since I look healthy and , so far, all tests have come back normal - I agree with the Dr's, it sounds odd.  It feels like your aware but your heart is not beating and breathing has stopped.  Dun says he is not weak or fatigued - however I am, my issues are occurring more often and have been slowly getting worse since Aug 2011.  Its slowly taking a toll on me, my ability to work, my mental health and my personal relationships.  Its very difficult to go from a very intelligent, successful, mentally strong, fit, level headed alpha male to a person who feels like they are fighting a losing battle every other night or so.  At age 40, the lack of quality sleep is affecting me greatly both mentally and physically.  I'm having a heart Cath this week for exploratory purposes.
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Avatar_m_tn
Hi i am and norwegian man who had this same problem for 30 years. the last year it have became more and more hard this "attacks" or failure. The doctors here cannot find out what;s wrong with me. However it feels like my situation and yours out there is sellen? PS. where have dundun take the way? Have not seen him responds since april 2010. Is he alive?
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Avatar_m_tn
i have had these wake up panics too on and off for about 2 years they come with big stress , i have had my first panic attack 9 years ago , looks like we all have Anxiety in common also heart palpilations with the whole speeding up slowing down thing , i just had this an hour ago it starts with not much conscious other than the feeling of panic and being drugged/dead not breathing , as soon as i panic and start walking breathing hard the adrenaline kicks in and the feeling of racing pounding heart lets me know of itself in that point i start trying to calm down because the pulse kicks over 120bpm , the fear makes it worst but it always seems to pass without me dying so thats a positive right there :P it still is a horrific feeling , i have an appointment and am almost sure the doctor wont know what am talking about but the least we can do is rule out most of dangerous known illnesses that can cause this kind of crap and try to adjust our life to it , in the end the thing that makes it more and more fearful is fear ( Anxiety ) itself , so dont ever forget that enemy , good luck to everyone !
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Avatar_f_tn
What you have is anxiety.  Never underestimate the ability of anxiety/stress to cause all kinds of strange sensations & worries.  
Please see a psychiatrist or gp for a rx for anxiety & depression---such as Zoloft.  You are overly anxious about yourself so engage in activities that shift your focus from yourself to others or other interests.
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Avatar_m_tn
I'm 30 and for a while now I have been trying to go to sleep but everytime I dose off I get jerked back awake and I feel all panic like, like my body is shouting to me... YOUR DIEING so WAKE UP and breath. I fell heavy headed and off balance along with a pounding heart that feels all out of wake and not beating right and then their is times I jump up cause I can't feel a pulse at all and I jump up in major panic and then my heart is racing and pounding. My body just won't allow me to fall alsleep. I have ringing in the ears so I have to always have a tv on to mute out the ringing so it won't drive me crazy in a silenced room. I mostly sleep on the couch now cause my wife says I keep her up snoring mow and then she says she hears me breathing weird like I'm some kind of weird breathing robot exhaling my air slow, loud and weird when I am sleeping. I sitting here right now at 7:30 am on the couch tired as heck but didn't sleep all night cause everytime I try or my brain trys to shut down on its I suddenly get a butterfly feeling in my gut and I jerk awake fast. My brain is shutting down only to awake me in a jerking weird way. Now I can't sleep. I need a sleep study BAD. My heart rate will drastically rise every time my brain trys to shut itself off for sleep. This stuff is scary. I shouldn't feel scared to sleep. Can a upcoming sinus  issue cause this? I'm in montana and my head in this snowy cold state is bad and I just feel off balanced every time I move my head around. I've felt this get worse and worse as the years go by. I may have a deep sinus infection in my head but I have no runny nose. Also when I jerk awake I feel pressure in my ears like I have ear plugs in and as Im forced awaken from the jerk of my brain forcing me back away. I swear I'm too scared to take sleepng pills and I should probably avoid them. All this ***** I swear. My brain is on a roll trying to auto shut down but it won't let me FALL FULLY back a sleep.
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Avatar_f_tn
I feel that its blatantly apparent  that you're suffering from anxiety. Perhaps your extreme anxiety is the root of your problem.
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Avatar_m_tn
I definitely have anxiety, I've said so.  But you're wrong; that's not the cause of this problem.  I hope you're not a doctor.

It was caused by taking Dramamine while flying.  The same thing happened another time I flew and took Dramamine.  Right after arriving, I was having dinner and kept having weird panicky sensations that parts of my body were going numb or limp, but when I touched them they were fine.  Again, I kept waking up in the night feeling like my heart had stopped or my breathing had stopped, same as the original post.  Again, it kept happening for weeks afterward.

But recently, I flew again.  I was very anxious about missing the plane, couldn't sleep.  This time I took Bonine instead of Dramamine, and despite having very high anxiety and jet lag, I didn't have any weird sensations or sleeping problems.
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Avatar_m_tn
To clarify: I haven't had this problem for years now.
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Avatar_m_tn
Good to hear you're ok. I've had similar problems and turned out to have Wolf Parkinson White Syndrome. After surgery in 2011 it seemed ok. Until recently I started waking up at night like you were. Not sure if it's tied to anxiety/stress from work or a return of my WPW. Have you ever been tested for WPW?
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Avatar_m_tn
I'm guessing that would be detected immediately in the EKG, though, right?
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Avatar_m_tn
my mom i think was a diabetic and wouldnt go to the doctor years ago, til in the last 8 weeks and she was diagnosed diabetic....... kidneys then were functional around 50% and your body can have complication after that...... she went to sleep and never woke up....... just dont know why she died, but my guess is diabetic could have cause the complication and made her quit breathing (heart attack)   she didn't have heart problems
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Avatar_n_tn
what did u do to fix this problem? i am going through same problem.
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Avatar_m_tn
I am crying as I write this because for quite some time I have had the exact same symptoms and felt awkward trying to explain it to a doctor. There were times that I felt as if I continued sleeping I would not wake up. At times I must take deep breaths to get my heart back in sync. It is as if there is an absolute silence in body, as if the blood stops flowing through my veins. It is horrible and scares me immensely. Thanks to this thread I now have an avenue to pursue. Thank you.
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Avatar_m_tn
Your trapezius muscle, which runs from your neck and across your shoulders is going into spasm. This restricts your lungs and the amount of air that you can breathe. If you're awake, it can feel like you're drowning. Asleep, once the CO2 levels exceed a certain point, your heart will kick in hard (in the same way that breathing CO2 into someones' lungs kick starts theirs in "the kiss of life), and that will wake you up startled and anxious.
Neuroleptics regulate the heart rhythm, avoiding the normal fluctuations, and will keep you from waking. However, although your heart remains pumping, you will still be suffering oxygen deprivation, and whatever long term consequences that may have.
I'd suggest you find a good chiropractor, and explain your problem. Physicians seem to take a snapshot of how a patient presents, and if all seems well (which it would) fail to investigate further, putting it down to anxiety.
There are no anxiety disorders; merely undiagnosed or misdiagnosed physical disorders leading to anxiety states.
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Avatar_m_tn
I wish I have come across this post sooner, I been having multiple similar issue lingering around for years. Been to ER many times for short of breath, chest pain, chest discomfort, heart palpitations, and many other problems. I have to. Say I have a PCP that is very supportive. He sent me to see who ever is necessary to get things fix as much as possible.

I also been traveling to China for many times and also been in the Chinese hospital many times. If I have any major problems while I'm there, I make a trip out to hong Kong for more advance medical treatment. Also been hospitalize in hong Kong a couple of time for about 3 days and many times to the hospital ER in hong Kong as well.

After a few ER visit, got all kinds of test, ECG, stress test, echo, xray, all came back normal. I was diagnosis with anxiety and panic disorder. I was refer to see a psychologist because its the mind that is causing many problems. My main issues are constantly worrying about something, many what-if questions, fear of death, fear of heart attack and heart problems, which in return caused me to be extremely nervous, pounding heart, chest pain, sleepless, etc. I was put on Prozac in the beginning, which it seem to do the job for a period of time. Took the med for a year and was better for another, than everything came back again, just as bad as the first time it happen. Back to ER I go, more workup, this time even a cardiologist did a angiogram on my heart to look for blockage in arteries and I was good.

So back to see a psychology I go, this time a different doctor. He gives me paxil, been seeming him for a good 2 years, didn't really seem to improve things. Over the time, my anxiety slow down,  but I didn't felt the med was doing more than it already did. So current I stop taking it all together. Had to cut down slowly otherwise there is a major withdrawal.

At the same time, with that many trip to ER, I was also following a cardiologist for the last 4-5 years already. My cardiologist is very good, he will do a stress test, a echo and other test once a year. I even had a holter on for 48 hours and a event monitor on for a month to monitor my heart activities. Since I have high blood pressures and other health problems that could or couldn't effect the heart, my cardiologist thinks it's best he keep an eye out for me.

I have to say, over the few years with major anxiety and panic disorder, it has completely ruin my life style. Thou as any doctor will assure you, anxiety will not cause any life danger, but it sure can ruin your life.

Oh, by the way, that sleeping issue everyone has, I also have the same thing. It is bad. As soon as I'm cross between awake and sleep, it felt like a shock, spasm, felt like my heart stop and restart, or felt like I stop breathing and waking up gasping for air. Its goes all night and can not fall asleep at all. I'm thinking I might need to see a sleeping specialist. Its very frustrating, so tire in the day and can't sleep in the night.
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Avatar_m_tn
I'm currently not seeing a psychologist and not taking any other anti depressant meds, but I am taking xanax as needed to calm my brain down. In someway it does help. Its a fast acting agent, you feel it in about 10 min. I still have my anxiety problems, just try to deal with it as it comes. If it gets any worst, I will have to go back and see a psychologist against.

Oh, I also forgot to mention, I had many panic attack over the last few years, almost blackout a few times on the freeway while driving that just hit me. So be careful.

Oh by the way, you need to find a doctor that really is on your side and willing to work with you, otherwise its going to be so much more stressful and not good for your health. So if you doctor thinks you are hopeless or helpless, you need a different doctor
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Avatar_m_tn
I am 18 and I am having the same thing  it just started one month ago and I am thinking about going to the doctor today. when I was born I had a hole in my heart but it was supposed to close and having been to the doc to check on it I do know if this could have something t9 do with it people are saying its anxiety but I wanna be sure Cruz coronary heart disease runs in my family and the symptoms I'm having says it could be that or arrythmias
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Avatar_m_tn
Unless he's a psychologist its not his field to tell you or anyone that. But surely he wouldn't be so unprofessional to speak about patients this way. Maybe a new doctor?

I would like to know your outcome, as I was having heart palpitations last night and woke up in the middle of night trying to breath and couldn't.  I have had this only a couple times before this one. This one was the worst.  it came with sleep paralyis in the past.

One thing about doctors that I've learned is that it is all a guessing game and the last doctor I saw told me that my guess was better than theirs. Really. So...if you think he have something make them test you for it. Make them earn their education. If their bed side manner is not to your liking see someone else.

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