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Avatar universal

Tachycardia When Falling Asleep?

Something strange happens to me now and then. I will be falling asleep or asleep for no more than an hour when something sends my body bolting upright. I awaken as I am forced upwards, gasping for breath with the whole bed shaking from tachycardia - it is beating that fast and hard. Once I almost fainted within the first thirty seconds. When I wore the holter the cardiologist said I was having a tachycardia but didn't know what triggered it. Has anyone experienced this during that early phase of sleep (REM?) I wake up disoriented and sure I am dying and eventually I realize "oh, it's just that thing happening again". It's very terrifying when it happens though, especially when I am so out of it and can't think straight. By the way, I have never had tachycardia when I am awake (knock on wood).
67 Responses
Avatar universal
mmmm sounds like sleep apnea to me.. This is a disorder where you stop breathing in your sleep for short periods of time (Before you freak out its very common and will not hurt you). I wake up with a start, gasping frequently, because i have pretty bad sleep apnea, but im still alive. the tachycardia is probably from the shock of waking up so fast not being able to breathe right away.
Avatar universal
I have this same symptom , I will drift off to sleep , then suddenly be awaken gasping for air with palpatations , happened 10 times in a row one night.Somtimes I drift off to sleep , and I am awaken with a shaking arm or leg. I dont get it , doc says its Anxiety but I dont buy it.
171267 tn?1199870589
I have had this happen to me too mumerous times. Sometimes when I wake with the jolt my heart rate will be bradycardic then goes tachycardic. Sometimes it makes me feel absolutely terrible for about half an hour, especially if I was in a deep sleep. I too also think that I am dying when it happens and it takes a while for me to calm down. I have been advised that it is probably sleep apnea and intend to get this checked out in a couple of months - doctor does not seem concerned. What I have found that helps is sleeping on my stomach.
I have been there! They keep telling me its nothing. I am happy about that but I cant stand it! dont want to resort to sleeping pills either. Other than the palpitations that are not tachycardic, I fall asleep only to be awaken from not being to breathe! Annoying much!
170935 tn?1225371076
wow, can't believe you guys suffer from similar symptoms as me during sleep!!
i am always waking up panicking within the first 2 hours of sleep. sometimes i jolt awake but have no idea why. most of the times i jolt awake feeling like my heart has stopped or it's beating way too slow. as soon as i awake palpataions start.
i also have svt and have jolted awake like this and had an svt attack straight away. why does it only seem to happen during the first stage of sleep??
Avatar universal
sb, how do you know you where having an svt attack? Svt during sleep is EXTREMELY rare.. and when i say extremely rare, i mean EXTREMELY rare lol..What Seemsto be happening is alot of people suffering from a very common condition called sleep apnea, and working themselves into a panic over it..
Avatar universal
I did read that there is something about the transition into REM (probably getting this wrong) that triggers the tachycardia in some people. It's just so weird. I did mention sleep apnea to my doctor and he was skeptical.
170935 tn?1225371076
the reason i'm saying i have svts at night is because i have had svt attacks during the day which have been confirmed by docs. I usually wake up within the first hour or two of sleep and my heart starts racing very fast and no matter how much i relax it is hard to slow it down. can beat like crazy for about 20 mins is it possible for this to just be sinus tachy? can your heart beat as fast as 180bpm without it being an svt attack? Someone else mentioned that svt at night is rare, what is the reason for this?? i hope you are right!!
97628 tn?1204462033
My husband has sleep apnea. He wakes up countless times during the night and snores incredibly loudly. He has a C-Pap machine but doesn't use it. The main problems he had from it were the predictable. Drowsy, taking naps, lack of attentiveness, car accidents, poor memory recall etc.
He's not fat, but when he gains any weight it's always right in his abdomen, After he started running for exercise the condition improved greatly.
Avatar universal
Anyone with symptoms of sleep apnea should spend a night being evaluated in a certified Sleep Lab. Sleep apnea should be treated, as it is serious -- it can also be easily treated.
61536 tn?1340698163
Look up noctournal panic attack.  Google it or whatever they do.  I used to get that, and the culprit was the noctournal panic attacks.  Extremely unpleasant.  I used to take 0.5mg of Ativan at night, which cured it, and eventually it went away as I got a little older.  I can't say that's what yours is, but you described by symptoms to a tee.
Avatar universal
yes, sinus tach can easily get up to 180 sustained.. One of the main reasons svt's at night are so rare, is because svt in itself is largly triggered by an already elevated heart rate, due to exersize, stress, adrenline, dehydration, anything really.. At night the heart rate slows significantly, so the changes of an svt attack drop significantly. The body is asleep and has much less of a chance of getting into its own way.. It would probably be a good idea for you to get another event monitor, to document exactly what it is you're feeling at night. Its possible its svt, but extremely unlikely. If you're having night time anxiety, this can be treated and you can finally get some rest!
170935 tn?1225371076
i have been told that my svt is probably triggered by pvcs, i don't understand how but, i had a 24 hr ecg recorder which didn't catch svt but confirmed that i was having pvcs at night  too, that's another reason i think that it is svt. i hope you are right and its sinus tachy!! in your opinion could my heart remain at about 180bpm for about 20 mins? i'm so confused, all the night time tachys have always only happened within 2 hours of sleep does that indicate sinus tachy perhaps?
Avatar universal
absolutely sinus tach can sit around 180 or above for 20 minutes or even considerably longer.. Yes palps can trigger an SVT attack, because a premature beat is more likely to travel down the reentry loop in your heart, but in the context of sleep, svt in any circumstance is rare.. Call your doctor and tell Him/Her whats happening, and if you need to, ask for an event monitor to make sure that what you are feeling isnt SVT, althought i think you're in the clear.. It might offer a little peace of mind. Most doctors dont become concerned about the heart rate during rest/sleep until it reaches 200+, so you might have to push for the monitor, but i think you should definatly discuss it with a cardiologist or electrophysiologist.
170935 tn?1225371076
Thanks collegegirl i'm going to try an get an event monitor. i just want your opinion on something. I never used to be that afraid of the svt until i started getting tons of pvcs. like you, my doc said that a pvc can trigger the svt( i still don't understand how this happens???) I have had an echo done which was normal and a 24hr ecg which showed 54 pvcs and my doc says i don't need to worry.
However, the reason i am so afraid now is because someone who works in a hospital once told me that because i have svt and pvcs i am more likely to get a dangerous arrythmia, (he is not a doc or nurse but does have some sort of medical training but i don't know what)he told me that if the pvcs can trigger svt they can trigger other arrhythmias too. since then i constantly live in fear. In fact about 4 weeks ago i had an svt attack but i was convinced it was vt and scared the life out of my poor hubby! i used to be able to control the svt at home by relaxing and eventually the attack would stop, but now i can't do that and make it worse by panicking. as soon as it starts it i start calling for an ambulance and telling them i am having a vt attack!! do you think i am just worrying for no reason at all?
97628 tn?1204462033

Please have the event monitor if it will help you decide this just will not happen.

Try to stay positive, consciously block negative thinking when it starts, and stay away from people who feed and support fearful thoughts. Especially on the Internet.

Hope you have a Happy New Year :-)

"If you want to conquer fear, don't sit home and think about it. Go out and get busy."
-Dale Carnegie
170935 tn?1225371076
Thanks kircurious i just asked my doc to order one now and was told it may take a few weeks! Happy new year to you too!!
Avatar universal
I have it.  It's more than tachycardia, its supraventricular tachycardia (160 to 180 bpm).  It's awful.  It started after my gallbladder surgery three months ago. All of a sudden I wake up with a rapid heart rate, then it gets very fast.  I have to stick my face in a bucket of ice water to get it to stop.  I have been to the ER twice with this and they assure me it's scary but not life threatening.  I wonder if they have ever had it.
I have worn a pulse oximeter for sleep apnea and my oxygen saturation stayed right up there.  My cardiologist told me that sleep apnea causes a deceleration of heart rate and ruled that out.
I can't drink alcohol, have caffeine or eat any chocolate.
I have seen two cardiologists now, had two types of stress tests and am now on VerelanPM.
I am scared to death to go to sleep!  I am not taking this lying down (pun intended).  I am off to the Houston Med Center for further evaluation.
Avatar universal
I forgot,
Do get the event monitor.  It helps the Dr to see what is going on.
Also, do try to be positive.  I have noticed if I try to take a deep breath when I wake up, slow down, don't jump out of bed in fear and just try to relax I may be able to squelch it.
287037 tn?1232923202
I have SVT and it ONLY happens during the night!
Avatar universal
I also have documented SVT and the most common time for it to happen is just as I'm drifting off to sleep.
(From what I've read, sinus tach shouldn't be above 150 at rest.)
Avatar universal
I have similar symptoms. I will be in the sleep/awake stage and will have incredible chest pain, rapid heartbeat, and trouble breathing. Sometimes it's just rapid heartbeat. I'm not overweight and I do not have high BP. I do not snore. I'm also young I'm only 22. I am stressed so I thought I was having sleep panic attacks. I'm just scared I will develop an arrythmia and die.
Avatar universal
This is the first place I've ever found where more than one person described the exact same symptoms as me.  Perhaps it's because the original question articulated the problem well, or perhaps I should have been looking at tachycardia earlier.  In any event, this is not sleep apnea and you are not "freaking out."  Know that there are others who are experiencing the same thing.  The problem, in my view, is that we are few in number and, as far as I can tell, no one has defined and named this syndrome yet.  
Some decades ago, for example, most doctors would have told a sufferer of obstructive sleep apnea that his or her problem was insomnia or too much stress.  The patient would have been given sleeping pills, etc., while today this problem is better understood and treated with mouthpieces, CPAP machines, etc.  Looking back, Howard Hughes was a classic sufferer of OCD, but that ailment wasn't sufficiently understood during his time.  In my experience, that's where we are with the problem being described on this page.    
Here is my own story: I first began to wake up suddenly (usually bolting upright as others have said and often screaming and/or gasping) in the summer of 2006.  My heart would be in a panic after that happened and it would be difficult to relax, let alone get back to sleep.  The experience is so traumatic it leaves one terrified.  It happens, as described above, just as I am falling asleep.  I would say in my case it's even less than an hour.  If I can get half an hour into sleep, I'm fine for the night.  I've watched this happen for over three years now and can say that it is almost certainly the transition into REM that triggers the horrifying event.    
I went to a number of doctors and the pigeon hole they were most likely to want to put my problem in was sleep apnea.  I understand the doctors' perspective--they listen to symptoms and try to match the pattern with something that they know or have heard of.  (I'm sure that more often than not patients are confuse their own symptoms, but it was frustrating for me because I had kept a very careful watch over what was happening yet the doctor's tendency was to minimize certain aspects and stress others to make my problem fit something in their books.)  Sleep apnea typically involves a patient waking up throughout the night often without realizing it.  As the posters on this page know, WE REALIZE IT, plus if we can get through the first hour, we'll sleep till morning without incident.  
I did at least three sleepovers where I was monitored (and at one of these, I actually had the bolt upright event happen when at the beginning) but these sessions are geared toward genuine sufferers of sleep apnea and that's what the technicians are measuring, so in the end my ailment wasn't really understood despite careful explanations and I was given drugs and told to sleep on my stomach, use a special pillow, close my mouth, irrigate nasal passages, etc.  The one clinic that witnessed the bolt upright event explained that I have mild sleep apnea but am hyper sensitive to not breathing when I'm first falling asleep so they suggested a sleeping pill to get me through this part of the night.
Anyone that's suffered through this knows that you don't want to be drugged when it happens.  My paternal grandmother actually died in her sleep from a heart attack and it occurs to me that if this horrific shock that we get when this happens triggered a heart attack in one of us, the actual cause would not be understood even today.  When I told a doctor in the UK of this, he wrote me a prescription for valium, thinking I was overly stressed out.  Needless to say, I never took the valium.  Sadly, doctors don't know what to do when they hear stories like these and typically look for ways to calm us down and ease the terror, rather than treat the thing that is causing the terror.
Is there anyone out there who has found a doctor that understands this problem?  I would jump on a plane and go to anywhere in the world to meet someone specializing in treating what ails the people on this page.  Is there any young med school graduate who would like to build a career on helping us and defining what we have?  You can name the syndrome after yourself if you want--just giving it a name would be a great benefit to everyone who this happens to.  I've suffered with it for three and a half years and have found people who describe similar symptoms here and there around the internet.  If you have this problem, you are not misunderstanding what is wrong with you, you are not crazy, you don't have something like sleep apnea which you're just stressing out about.  My belief is you are suffering from something that has yet to be written about in the medical books.   ---Dan
Perfectly said bro
Avatar universal
Well put dddddano!  I have had the same experience for 17 years now.  It used to occur about four times a year.  Now it occurs 4+ times a month. I wake up an hour after going to sleep with heart rate from 150-200 bpm (caught on event monitors).  Electrophysiologist wanted to put me on a beta blocker but said these episodes are coming from the normal sinus node of heart.  I have previously been diagnosed with panic attacks--PLEASE- this is not a panic attack.  I just want to know what causes this and fix it!  I have not done a sleep study because I really don't think I have sleep apnea (no snoring). I am tired of going to all these doctors that do not have a clue.
Avatar universal
My first experince of racing pulse that woke me up was some 7 years ago. And I think I have figured out the reason. It started shortly after I had begun using a cell phoe. It was easy to control it with magnesium after I had put a radiation protection on my cell phone, and when  it came of last April, it got out of control. I have almost gone to the ER. It took me more than a month to put all the pieces together. I have heard that cordless phones are also a bad choice, but what isn't these days? I guess that these impulses can mess with our brain activity. But were you using any of theese 17 years ago? And what about radiations around us? Some of us are probably more susceptible than the others. Just a wild guess, or not?
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