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stopping breathing when falling asleep

I'm 29yrs. old, and fo the last 2-3months (not every night), just as i'm about to fall deep asleep i wake up not breathing. I know this may sound stupid, but I can actually feel myself stopping breathing, then wake up fully gasping for air. It usually happens again before i finally go off, but sometimes i've actually woken up in the middle of the night struggling to breath. I'm not overweight or anything like that but I am a light smoker. Please can I have some advice about this. Thanks!!
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Avatar universal
I have had the same thing happen to me almost every night for the past 2 years. The second you tell someone you "gasp for air", they immediately say sleep apnea, and that you should get a sleep study.
I got a sleep study, (even though I have none of the traits), and they said I definitely don't have sleep apnea. They also couldn't tell me what it was, and offered sleeping pills. People have such a hard time grasping that it is not happening all through the night. Just once or twice while going into a deeper sleep. I dont smoke but I feel like mine is anxiety.
Good luck to you and get use to people telling you it's sleep apnea.

Helpful - 1
1 Comments
I read about anxiety as well..I just started experiencing this oddly..but I have brain injuries and PNES so I think it is anxiety for me..my eye has an odd red rash that appeared and is going away then reappeared..PNES for me has produced nonepileptic seizures but I have worked so hard to get the Topomax dosage down and these under control..yet my body is taking the stress out other ways..my pattern of brain injury is like a stroke..and the parts of course correlate with stress..frontal lobe..memory, lambic system..anxiety and stress, left side..your meat and potatoes function and corpus collalous which the info taken in does not always register correctly and going out is the same thing..stress on the body manifests into so many complications on top of whichever diagnosis maybe present....
Avatar universal
Hi there,

I would like to contribute to this discussion hopefully with a cure as I suffered the following symptoms:

a) Just when I'm about to fall asleep, I am jolted awake with a pounding heart and I gasp a bit for air as if I forgot to breathe.

b) This continues ad nauseam, all night allowing me to get less than 1 hour of sleep and can persist for days, forcing me to take sleeping pills.

Background
I did extensive research online and have also had blood tests, thyroid test, urine test (results to come soon), lung function test, EKG, echo-gram of the heart, 24 hour holter monitor, allergy test, take-home sleep study (I have no apnea), neurology tests checking oxygen flow to brain and screening for degenerative diseases like ALS. All came back negative although I was insufficient for Vitamin D, so I am taking supplements.

As the days went by (I suffered from this for about 4-5 weeks with my main symptom during the day being shortness in breath), I finally stumbled upon 'Adrenal Fatigue'. This is the failure of our adrenal glands to produce cortisol, the stress response hormone, in adequate quantities, resulting in an internal imbalance of cortisol in our bodies. This can elevate PH levels thus reducing our CO2 tolerance at night; so when we transition from staying awake to light or REM sleep, there is a brief pause where our parasympathetic system takes over (i.e automatic breathing). In this brief pause, in my understanding, PH levels rise as do Co2 levels. If our adrenals are fatigued, our sensitivity to higher PH and Co2 levels, causes us to be jolted awake, just as we fall asleep. This is a fantastic video by an American doctor called Dr. Berg. If you put in "adrenal fatigue shortness in breath" in YouTube search you will find it.

I want to stress something here; always get yourself checked out with some or all of the tests I did above to ensure that you have no underlying condition, but most probably, it is not some underlying condition but instead what I have explained above. So please relax, I know how scary this symptom can be.

Adrenal Fatigue is well documented and all doctors know about it. There are 4 stages to adrenal fatigue and this can be caused/exacerbated by stress in your life-style (even too much exercise can cause it). It is a sneaky one as it creeps up on you and can wreak havoc on your adrenals and eventually, thyroid, causing major sleep disturbance issues.

Solution
So here are a few tangible steps I took immediately when I found out the above and I've started to sleep normally again.

a) Cut out white rice, bread or any processed foods (this is not forever, just until I am healed). This is a big big one, the moment I eat this, I get the same heart palpitations/jolts at night.

b) Your last meal should be no later than 7pm at night; make sure it is light. Some lentils/legumes, fish, or chicken but nothing heavy like a pizza followed by chocolate.

c) Magnesium tablet after your dinner meal as this relaxes the muscles. Some doctors recommend melatonin, you may wish to check it out too, I have not tried it.

d) Retire to bed at 9pm with the view to fall asleep by 10pm-11pm, maybe midnight depending on your insomnia type of condition.

e) If you are experiencing the sleeping issues described above, this most likely means your mind/body has experienced recent trauma or excessive levels of stress (you may or may not have realised it consciously). This mean you absolutely need to reduce your intraday stress; ideally get bed rest for a few days.

Literally overnight, doing a-d has entirely removed that strange "jerking" and I am now sleeping.

I understand steps a-e above seem wishy washy but they actually worked very well for me. Your sleep as you are probably well aware is where a good portion of internal body repair occurs; especially in deep delta wave REM sleep. So if you are too bored or lazy to try out the steps a-e above, please do it just for the sake of your sleep-health.

I hope the above helps some of you.
Sonic




Helpful - 0
2 Comments
Hi Sonic, thanks for the informative post. Are you aware of any influence that alcohol may have on this symptom of adrenal fatigue? I have found that alcohol or any CNS depressant seems to exacerbate the symptom, making it much more likely to occur. Any input would be greatly appreciated! Thanks, Lewie
Sonic I finally decided to find out what was going on with me when I read your post and it made all the sense to me now. I believe that you are correct when stating that the PH level as the main cause of this sleep disorder. I started using Sodium Bicarbonate to aliviate my heart burn symptoms and this was the common denominator when I experienced my body forgetting to sleep waking me up with a violent need to breathe and an accelerated heart beat, On all the occasions I had this event I took 3 table spoons on Sodium bicarbonate disolved in water to give me (I thought) a nice night sleep without the typical heart burn displeasure that eventually wakes me up in the middle of the night. I believe that increasing ph levels are the reason for this disorder that not necessarily are caused by the glands you mentioned but also by taking "heavy alkaline" fluids that can increase you ph level. Any comment on this please?
Avatar universal
Hi,

Since when are you experiencing this problem?
This is quite possibly sleep apnea. People with sleep apnea stop breathing for at least 10-30 seconds at a time during sleep.
There are two kinds of sleep apnea obstructive and central.
Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when the windpipe gets blocked by tongue, tonsils, uvula, fatty tissue in the throat or relaxed throat muscle.
Central apnea is rare and is due to failure of brain signaling mechanism.
I would suggest you to schedule an appointment with your doctor and get a sleep study done. Meanwhile quit smoking, alcohol and try to sleep on your side rather than on your back. Take care! Please keep us posted.
Helpful - 0
172715 tn?1285494490
Tell your doctor what has been happening TODAY. Sound like you have a type of sleep apnea and it could be dangerous.  You probably stop breathing more than you realize. I have it and didn't know it until I got married, my husband is the one that noticed the problem all night long.  I didn't know that I stopped breathing 100 x per hr.  Also came out of deep sleep constantly without knowing it. Ask to have a sleep study done ASAP. Until then, sleep on your side or on 2 pillows on your back.  If you chose your side, tape a tennis ball or like item to your back (pj's top) so when you turn over to your back it will hurt enough to turn you back to your side.  Side sleeping lessens the apneas.  Get help now....
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
I fell asleep just some second and stop breathing (many time times kast night , until I gtook one splrring pill, I could sleep for some hours but not deep) (just happened some months , I ). Are You ok now ?  please help me to show how to do now.
Thanks
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Guys did you find solution for this problem I have same thing after consuming alkoholic beverages I have this issue but not every night sometimes happen out of blue but sometimes I have multiple issues during night.
if somebody find cure please advice
God bless
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Agree with idesofmarch - your symptoms merit a sleep study.

Contrary to popular thinking, many people with sleep apnea are young and fit. Throat structure, inset jawbone, tongue size, enlarged tonsils... so many possible contributing factors to obstructive sleep apnea besides weight. And while snoring can be a warning sign, not everyone with OSA snores.

There is also a kind of sleep apnea called central sleep apnea, which is of neurological origin.

Only a sleep study can tell you for sure what is happening while you sleep. There are health hazards associated with untreated sleep apnea. Not the kind of thing it would be wise to ignore.
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Hi there,

I would like to contribute to this discussion hopefully with a cure as I suffered the following symptoms:

a) Just when I'm about to fall asleep, I am jolted awake with a pounding heart and I gasp a bit for air as if I forgot to breathe.

b) This continues ad nauseam, all night allowing me to get less than 1 hour of sleep and can persist for days, forcing me to take sleeping pills.

Background
I did extensive research online and have also had blood tests, thyroid test, urine test (results to come soon), lung function test, EKG, echo-gram of the heart, 24 hour holter monitor, allergy test, take-home sleep study (I have no apnea), neurology tests checking oxygen flow to brain and screening for degenerative diseases like ALS. All came back negative although I was insufficient for Vitamin D, so I am taking supplements.

As the days went by (I suffered from this for about 4-5 weeks with my main symptom during the day being shortness in breath), I finally stumbled upon 'Adrenal Fatigue'. This is the failure of our adrenal glands to produce cortisol, the stress response hormone, in adequate quantities, resulting in an internal imbalance of cortisol in our bodies. This can elevate PH levels thus reducing our CO2 tolerance at night; so when we transition from staying awake to light or REM sleep, there is a brief pause where our parasympathetic system takes over (i.e automatic breathing). In this brief pause, in my understanding, PH levels rise as do Co2 levels. If our adrenals are fatigued, our sensitivity to higher PH and Co2 levels, causes us to be jolted awake, just as we fall asleep. This is a fantastic video by an American doctor called Dr. Berg. If you put in "adrenal fatigue shortness in breath" in YouTube search you will find it.

I want to stress something here; always get yourself checked out with some or all of the tests I did above to ensure that you have no underlying condition, but most probably, it is not some underlying condition but instead what I have explained above. So please relax, I know how scary this symptom can be.

Adrenal Fatigue is well documented and all doctors know about it. There are 4 stages to adrenal fatigue and this can be caused/exacerbated by stress in your life-style (even too much exercise can cause it). It is a sneaky one as it creeps up on you and can wreak havoc on your adrenals and eventually, thyroid, causing major sleep disturbance issues.

Solution
So here are a few tangible steps I took immediately when I found out the above and I've started to sleep normally again.

a) Cut out white rice, bread or any processed foods (this is not forever, just until I am healed). This is a big big one, the moment I eat this, I get the same heart palpitations/jolts at night.

b) Your last meal should be no later than 7pm at night; make sure it is light. Some lentils/legumes, fish, or chicken but nothing heavy like a pizza followed by chocolate.

c) Magnesium tablet after your dinner meal as this relaxes the muscles. Some doctors recommend melatonin, you may wish to check it out too, I have not tried it.

d) Retire to bed at 9pm with the view to fall asleep by 10pm-11pm, maybe midnight depending on your insomnia type of condition.

e) If you are experiencing the sleeping issues described above, this most likely means your mind/body has experienced recent trauma or excessive levels of stress (you may or may not have realised it consciously). This mean you absolutely need to reduce your intraday stress; ideally get bed rest for a few days.

Literally overnight, doing a-d has entirely removed that strange "jerking" and I am now sleeping.

I understand steps a-e above seem wishy washy but they actually worked very well for me. Your sleep as you are probably well aware is where a good portion of internal body repair occurs; especially in deep delta wave REM sleep. So if you are too bored or lazy to try out the steps a-e above, please do it just for the sake of your sleep-health.

I hope the above helps some of you.
Sonic




Helpful - 0
1 Comments
What kind of magnesium tablet so you use. I have all the same symptoms.
Avatar universal
You may be suffering from Apnea that is medical word used to describe slowed or stopped breathing. It happans when the airways become blocked or when brain disables to send a single to breathe. The cause of your apnea is connected with type of apnea that you have. As you discussed that you facing this problem when you sleep. It indicated, you are facing sleep apnea and its causes listed below:

overly relaxed throat muscles or tongueen
larged tongue
enlarged tonsils
being overweight
irregular function of the brain signals that control the throat muscles
the shape of your head and neck

Now you need to call a doctor and tell him/her all condition that you are faced. Doctor will give best advice and medicines.
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
Is anyone still checking this thread? I suffer from a similar condition to the original post, marykly, and sonic12. I have figured out a way to largely eliminate this problem, which is quite similar to sonic 12s approach. If anyone is interested in hearing about my experience let me know. P.
Helpful - 0
5 Comments
yes would love to hear it
yes would love to hear it
I'm also interested...
I would like to hear
Apologies for the major delay, but I've finally posted a response as earlier promised. It's posted as a response to the leading question in this particular thread.
Avatar universal
Same thing happening to me for years but only once in awhile right as I'm drifting I stop breathing. Also same thing wake up can;t open my eyes or breath;s very scary. I have been looking for patterns. And think could be related to when Im sleep deprived and or have used to much caffeine. However in the last year I have been getting frequent heart palpitations as well as days where I have shortness of breath. Some think it is allergies. Or it could be the dozens of head injuries I have had. It seems to never happen when I have Dr appointment.
Helpful - 0
1 Comments
It's usually stress and anxiety related. For me its PTSD because when I had cancer and the doctors went to put the mask on me my brain 'freaked' and 2as screaming in my head Domt put the mask on you will die. Now I either freak out as I'm dozing or wake up in the night gasping for breath like my brain keeps reliving that moment. Stress and anxiety of any kind can set this reaction off
Avatar universal
I HAVE A MERLIN MONITOR---IT'S BEEN GOING OFF SEVERAL TIMES A NITE DUE TO BREATHING PROBLEMS
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
OK, apologies for the major delay (I promised to some commenters that I'd put this up some time ago)  but this is my experience with a strange (but similar) sleep condition to sonic12 and marykly. Note that this is quite a lengthy response.

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 to someone.



Helpful - 0
1 Comments
Thank you so much for this information.  I do hope it always helps you from here on out and I may try to alter my diet in ways to see if anything improves for me, since I do have sleep apnea and an array of other autoimmune disorders. Thank you again for sharing your experience.
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