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Tongue spasms during sleep
Since 2003, I've been alarmingly awakened by tongue spasms/tremors. Sometimes it's like I'm gagging, but usually just a slight tremor.  It stops a few seconds after I awake, but usually reoccurs every 20-30 min for 2 hours & always happens in those 1st 2 hrs, then I'm able to sleep 8 hrs. It's happening 80% of the time lately.

I can't find any info on these symptoms online.  I believe my tongue may be relaxing & blocking my airway & I'm fighting it in my sleep.  I have 2 lymph glands about 1" below my jaw to each side of my throat that always seem swollen, but my doc doesn't think so. Seems like they swell more when this happens, but it could be my imagination.  Doc says tonsils are fine also.  I'm wondering if the glands are swollen because I need dental work that I can't afford right now.  I've also have a swollen gland occasionally in my armpit from time to time.  I haven't been diagnosed with lymphoma or epilepsy.  I don't use recreational drugs.  I have difficulty swallowing sometimes, but I believe it's anxiety.  My insurance won't pay for a sleep study.

I've usually slept with a Breathe Right strip on my nose the past 2 yrs because I used to wake gasping for air & it seems to control that, but I also started taking Prevacid 30mg daily at the same time & it may have been just gas or reflux that was causing the gasping. I sometimes fall asleep without using one & it doesn't seem to matter anymore.  If I fall sleep on my back, I'll snore & wake myself up, but I like sleeping on my side & stomach.  I'm not overweight, don't smoke, but I self-medicate with 3 or 4 beers before dinner to relax & get a good appetite.  I don't take any other drugs except that I use Proctofoam HC for my anal itching about once a week & I sometimes take Gas-X because Prevacid doesn't stop my gas.

What could cause my tongue to do this?  Is this a sign of sleep apnea or are the tongue spasms a different disorder?  Are the lymph glands or tonsils a part of the problem?
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I am not aware of a specific disease that can lead to tongue spasm.  

One consideration would be seizures.  An EEG and a referral to a neurologist can be done if this is suspected.

Sleep apnea is possible as well, although this would be an atypical symptom.  A sleep study can be done for a more definitive diagnosis.

I would also image the brain with an MRI or CT scan to exclude any neurological disease or mass that can lead to this picture.

This answer is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice - the information presented is for patient education only. Please see your personal physician for further evaluation of your individual case.

Kevin, M.D.
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