Aa
Aa
A
A
A
Close
Avatar universal

Waking up feeling like I can't breath or that I'm dying in my sleep!

I was wondering if I'm the only one who has had this problem.  Basically, soon after I fall asleep... anywhere from right after I doze off up until 1-2 hours I will wake up in a daze feeling as if my lungs are tight and I can't move any air until after I wake up fully.  

This will happen almost every night for a while, and then it will go away completely and won't happen at all for months at a time, only to start up again happening almost every night after many months have gone by.  

I had a sleep test done in the hospital and nothing happened that night but I was told that my test was normal and I don't even have sleep apnea.
9 Responses
Sort by: Helpful Oldest Newest
Avatar universal
Another thing is, this virtually always happens soon after I fall asleep... like I said maybe 5 mins up to an hour or 2 after...but basically never past then.
Helpful - 0
1355118 tn?1298564879
MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL
Hi, welcome to the forum, proper breathing is affected by a number of different factors. If you add tight fitting clothes, then this can aggravate your problem. Your chest and abdomen needs room to expand when you breathe. Tight fitting clothes can hinder efficient breathing to some degree. Use loose cotton clothes in night.

Obstructive sleep apnea is the condition in which person suffers from breathing difficulty in sleep. Some causes are central alveolar hypoventilation syndrome and person
Experience a breathing impairment related to abnormally low arterial oxygen levels. Also if Hb level is reduced amount of oxygen carrying capacity is reduced.

Also you need to reduce weight if you are overweight which the common cause for such disorders. I suggest you to consult physician and undergo lung functioning test, Hb level etc. Take care and regards.
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
It can be related to stress as well.

I wake up during the night (usually 1-2 hours after I fall
to bed as well) with a feeling that I can't breathe, but
accompanied with a heartbeat that start accelarating and
sweating, it lasts for a few secs (sometimes longer if I start
making negative thoughts) and it goes away. I have noticed it
happens more ofthen when that particualr day or the period has
been stressful.

Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
That Dr may only.be half right because the same thing happens to me bit I got.mine checked out yes anxiety has a lot to do with it..bit it's really a form of night terrors
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
On a typical night night terrors happen between 1 to 2 hours after you first fall asleep..I do a lot of.reading.on that to
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Don't.take my.word for it type it.into your search engine like.Google and type in symptoms.of night terrors and then talk to your doctor
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
It happens to me from time to time, I wake up and feel like I have to fight and actively try to breathe.
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Hi,
The following is a general response which I posted to another thread which may throw some light on your condition and may give you some measures  to try which may be of help.

My condition take either of 3 general forms as described below (I've named them simply Types 1, 2 & 3).

Type 1
These episodes tend to happen when I’m in a deeper sleep, in the middle of the night, and probably don’t last any more than 10 seconds (however, they are very traumatic and upsetting). They can happen once or a number of times during an affected night:
From dreamless sleeping, I suddenly become aware but not awake as such. This awareness is focused on a feeling of something being really, really wrong. My semi-conscious interpretation, at that instant, of this feeling may be, for example…. ‘I’m not breathing!’... or… ‘I’ve swallowed my tongue!’… or just simply… ‘I’m actually dying this time!’ (note, none of these interpretations are actually true). So, adrenaline/panic kicks in and I struggle to awake properly.  Previously, I’d end up literally jumping out of bed in desperation. Latterly, I’ve trained myself, sometimes, to stay in bed and just breath or count until the awful feeling subsides.
Soon afterwards, I settle down again, though badly shaken, and usually return to sleep perhaps 10-20 minutes later.

Type 2
These episodes tend to happen when I’m in a lighter sleep at any stage of the night. They are less upsetting but in some ways more problematic as they can occur more frequently throughout the night and thus seriously disturb quality of sleep:
From dreamless sleeping I simply suddenly jerk awake with an abrupt inhalation or gasp. These occurrences tend to leave me somewhat shaken but more just annoyed. I normally go back into a light sleep quite soon afterwards.

Type 3
This type tends to happen in the middle part of the night and can happen in conjunction with ‘Type 2s’. It can last for a number of hours.
It comprises a general and unpleasant state of disorientation and confusion where the distinction between being asleep and awake is very blurred. This would be accompanied by much tossing and turning.

So that's my condition. I've engaged various doctors and consultants to try and diagnose the problem but none have come up with anything. As part of these consultations I've carried various blood tests, examinations and overnight sleep studies (fully monitored in a hospital setting). None of these have shown anything untoward and have generally left the doctors and medical staff scratching there heads. That said, the sleep studies did confirm that the waking episodes, that I describe, are real. However, apart from waking suddenly with accompanying rapid heart beat (from the panic), the sleep studies have shown that there is no disruption to my breathing or any other physical issue. Thus, among other known sleep conditions, I do not have any form of sleep apnea.

So no diagnosis, explanation or possible solution whatsoever from the conventional medical fraternity.

So over to chance! That is to say, by chance, I discovered some time ago that completely avoiding gluten in my diet pretty much solved the problem. Consume any gluten containing product and sure enough the problem would occur that following night. Avoid all gluten, I would sleep fine. So I adopted a totally gluten free diet which worked well for a number of years. However, sometime ago, I started experiencing the various episodes (as described above) even when avoiding gluten.

Back to the drawing board.....because, purely from my own observation, this condition seemed to be linked to diet, I researched this further and decided to try adopting an Autoimmune Protocol (AIP) diet. You might want to look this up....but basically it's a very strict diet avoiding all grains, nuts, seeds, dairy, nightshades, refined sugars, alcohol and any processed food at all. This diet is informed by the latest nutritional thinking (though not conventional medicine) behind various autoimmune conditions. As you might appreciate this diet is very difficult to follow but if I follow it strictly it works and I sleep just fine (I do seem to be able to adjust the diet somewhat to my needs, e.g. I can eat regular potatoes and tomatoes (both nightshades). Given the alternative for me - guaranteed very traumatic and debilitating sleep disturbance (not sustainable in the long term at all) - I try my best to follow the AIP diet, though it does take major readjustment to lifestyle, eating, etc. By the way, generally speaking, the less I adhere to the AIP diet the more I experience the episode types described above, particularly the 'type 2's....and vice versa. On another positive note, adopting this diet has also had other health benefits for me including increased energy levels, weight loss, muscle mass, etc.

As you might realise my dietary solution to my sleep condition is quite similar to that advocated by sonic 12. Heretofore, given the nature and success of adopting the AIP diet, my inclination is that my condition is some form of autoimmune condition which has generated hypersensitivity to a whole range of food groups and manifests itself as I've described. There is more and more evidence linking the gut and gut health with both the immune and, perhaps most interestingly, the nervous system....is this the route cause of my condition, I wonder? Anyway, I read with interest sonic 12's account of his or her research and his/her conclusion that his/her (similar) condition is to do with adrenal fatigue....perhaps this is behind my condition as well. In particular, I am curious about the possible role of stress with my condition, though I have not been able to figure out any patterns in this regard.

Whichever way, I think, between myself and sonic 12's experiences, people with similar  undiagnosed sleep conditions have at least some (not easy but possibly very worthwhile) options to explore and to try out. Any feedback to this forum,  concerning success or otherwise, by anyone trying these approaches, I'm sure would be very useful to this community.

Finally I should say that, obviously, before one goes down the approach that either myself or sonic 12 have adopted it would be important to rule out more obvious, potentially dangerous, sleep conditions, such as sleep apnea with a medical consultant or physician. By the way, you might also find apathy or even  resistance to these dietary/lifestyle approaches to the described sleep conditions by the conventional medical fraternity....but given the complete lack of any alternative suggestions by my consultants and doctors and the success that myself and sonic 12 have had with these dietary/lifestyle approaches then maybe they're worth a try.....even just trying for a start a gluten free/low processed food diet.

Hope this is of some help.
Helpful - 0
2 Comments
This is also my expirience.. I noticed that when I changed my diet, actually exactly the type you describe, only I did it because I had problems with cortisol and metabolism, my sleeping episodes dissapeared along with my cortisol levels rising and metabolism stabilizing. I did not know the type of diet is called AID, but I just googled like crazy at the time, to find out what I should eat to improve my cortisol levels and metabolism.

My sleeping episodes differs from waking up gasping for air, feeling as i`ve been about to die, and slowly returning to reality as I breathe, to just being very confused and disconnected feeling as my heart just have been about to stop, and the fact that I manage to wake up, starting to breathe, have gotten the heart rate started again. It is freaking terrifying as you know, I am h"appy" there are other people expiriencing this.

Sugar seems to be my biggest enemy, but if I consume all sorts of bread , coffee, alcohol  over some time, it comes back.. Even in moderate amounts... I think maybe if I wear myself out completely during work out, that also contributes to the sleeping episodes, but I am not totally sure if it is connected. I am almost afraid of recommending these things like diet etc, incase it is a coincidence, but it could be worth testing for you guys who also have this repeatedly..

It sucks to be so strict with the food.. But yea.. If you browse the internet for recipes, you`ll find that there are possibilities for  a lot of good food and replacements for the products you maybe need to avoid...
Yes, it is strangely reassuring to hear of others who suffer from these or similar sleeping episodes. I've spent years getting blank uncomprehending looks from both friends and medics alike when I try to explain my sleep/waking episodes. When I then try to explain the link that I've discovered between the sleep/waking episodes and the food I eat, this is often met with even more incomprehension (particularly by doctors and medics). Anyway, until we get some decent medical research into these and similar conditions with perhaps a formal recognition of the syndrome or whatever it is, we'll just have to keep trusting our own instincts and keep improvising as best we can. Whichever way, removing processed foods, sugars and other suspect foods (as outlined in my earlier post above, and other posts) has been a self prescribed life saver for me and surely  would do more good than harm for anyone trying it.
Avatar universal
This is also my expirience.. I noticed that when I changed my diet, actually exactly the type you describe, only I did it because I had problems with cortisol and metabolism, my sleeping episodes dissapeared along with my cortisol levels rising and metabolism stabilizing. I did not know the type of diet is called AID, but I just googled like crazy at the time, to find out what I should eat to improve my cortisol levels and metabolism.

My sleeping episodes differs from waking up gasping for air, feeling as i`ve been about to die, and slowly returning to reality as I breathe, to just being very confused and disconnected feeling as my heart just have been about to stop, and the fact that I manage to wake up, starting to breathe, have gotten the heart rate started again. It is freaking terrifying as you know, I am h"appy" there are other people expiriencing this.

Sugar seems to be my biggest enemy, but if I consume all sorts of bread , coffee, alcohol  over some time, it comes back.. Even in moderate amounts... I think maybe if I wear myself out completely during work out, that also contributes to the sleeping episodes, but I am not totally sure if it is connected. I am almost afraid of recommending these things like diet etc, incase it is a coincidence, but it could be worth testing for you guys who also have this repeatedly..

It sucks to be so strict with the food.. But yea.. If you browse the internet for recipes, you`ll find that there are possibilities for  a lot of good food and replacements for the products you maybe need to avoid...
Helpful - 0
Have an Answer?

You are reading content posted in the Sleep Disorders Community

Didn't find the answer you were looking for?
Ask a question
Popular Resources
Healing home remedies for common ailments
Dr. Steven Park reveals 5 reasons why breathing through your nose could change your life
Want to wake up rested and refreshed?
Herpes sores blister, then burst, scab and heal.
Herpes spreads by oral, vaginal and anal sex.
STIs are the most common cause of genital sores.