I am a 28/m, and I have been having an issue for somewhere in the range of 5-7 years. My issue is, I tend to startle myself awake whilst dozing off. Now, I realize this is extremely common; something like 70% of people experience this. My problem is, this happens several times a night, nearly every night, and is accompanied by some other disturbing symptoms.
These other symptoms include:
A sudden burning sensation in my lungs (almost as if I had suddenly inhaled pure CO2).
An odd feeling in my chest (I have no other sensation to compare this to, so it's hard to describe. If I had to describe it, I would have to say it feels like I'm going to die.).
Spasms in my lower left rib area.
A feeling like most of my body has fallen asleep (numb and tingly).
Frantic flailing of the limbs.
Also, oddly, there is NO sensation of falling.
In general, this seems like some sort of seizure, but one I am totally aware of. All of these symptoms also completely STOP COLD, as soon as I fully wake up.
I have tried most of the benzodiazepines, and none fully did the trick, at least at the doses they were willing to give me.
I should also note, I have consistently had sleep issues my entire life. Alternating diphenhydramine/doxylamine are usually my only hope of sleeping at a reasonable hour. I have been known to over sleep, by huge stretches of time; my record is 3 days. I could also sleep through the apocalypse. My mother used to be forced dump water on my head to wake me up for school, which usually didn't work.
I have been to a sleep specialist. He said I had DSPD, and possibly a sleep deficit was somehow causing the jerks. He also said the only thing that could cause a burning in my lungs was if something entered them (IE stomach acid). He hypothesized I had acid reflux, which I assured him I did not, and he ignored. He prescribed me Prilosec, melatonin, and a sun lamp. *facepalm*
Fast forward several months. I go have an upper GI, to check for a hiatal hernia, acid reflux, or any other GI issues which could cause this sort of thing. This test showed nothing wrong. No reflux. Nothing.
I am baffled. Years of researching, seeing doctors, and sleepless nights have yielded me zero results. I'm just so perplexed, and I'm hoping someone here can give me even a shred of insight in to what's happening to me. I am losing my sanity, over this.
Unfortunately, the sleep specialist was so confident in his acid reflux diagnosis, he deemed a sleep study unnecessary. I should note, though, I don't think I ever actually stop breathing. I am always in the initial stages of sleep, and still conscious (barely) when this happens; once I am actually asleep, I stop being woken up by this.
I also forgot to mention in the OP that my positioning usually effects how severe it is, but in no predictable way. Sometimes, sleeping on my back, which is not my preferred position, is the only way to make it stop; other times, sleeping on my side is the only way to make it stop.
Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) caused dreaming problem mostly when one sleeps on their backs, and it is more common in older people, especially if they are overweight (I don't mean real "fat", just overweight will do it). Age compounds the problem because all physical muscles deteriorate including those that can interfere with breathing.
I think you should just ask your Primary Care doctor to prescribe a over night at home recording oximeter test. It is nice to have a doctor look over the results, I think one can order the test on their own, I know one can purchase a recording Oximeter for small money compared to doctors. Either way the Oximeter test is inexpensive and even if one doesn't have insurance I suggest investing in the test.
My OSA included episodes similar to what you describe - I would just start to fall asleep and realize I was suffocating, which woke me up. Some times it was bad enough I had to stand to get a good breathing result. I did not feel that I couldn't pull air into my lungs, but I felt I was suffocating anyway.
I purchase a simple Oximeter and noted my daytime oxygen saturation levels were good, always over 95%, and then I put the Oximeter on my bed side table and whenever I woke up I'd clip it on and I found some reading in the upper 80% range. Anything below 90% is bad, needs attention. This lead to an exam by a Pulmonary Specialist who with X-Ray said my lungs were not the problem but said he could see my breathing tube in my throat was on the small size, I then underwent a sleep study (an expensive proposition - but I am insured) and diagnosed with mild OSA. I am now trying to lose weight to see if that will clear the problem. I have lost abut 12 pounds but noticed a big reduction in my OAS symptoms before I had lost even 8 pounds. I hope to get 20 pounds off and then take another over night Oximeter test. I would like to avoid a CPAP breathing mask as long as I can, suppose it is inevitable for me if I keep living - as said I am already a old guy, much of my experience may not relate to your because of our age differences.
I'll certainly talk to my doctor about what you suggested. I should note, however, I am 6'4" 160lbs, soaking wet. If it is what you suggest, my only option would probably be CPAP, as losing weight would be flat out unhealthy for me.
In the mean time, I am open to any other suggestions anyone might have. If it's not SA, I'd like to have some other potential causes to pursue.
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