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deni's avatar

Could these two weird breathing issues be related and if so, what might the problem be?

Asked by deni (22097 points ) March 6th, 2012

Two things happen to me frequently enough to take notice of, and I don’t know the cause of either. Yes I could just go to the doctor but I’d rather not, and neither are serious enough (or it doesn’t seem that way anyhow) for me to really make the push and find out what the root issue is, or if these things are common, or whatever.

1. I can’t sleep on my back. When I do, for longer than a half hour I’d say, my breathing becomes very restricted. My lungs feel tight and heavy. I can’t breathe in deeply. It is painful. So….I never ever sleep on my back, so I avoid the problem, but when I do accidentally it still happens. It was at its worst when I was about 15. Sometimes it actually impacted my day.

2. Occasionally, lets say, once a week on average, I go to take a normal breath and have a sharp pain in my chest. Not so sharp it’s really painful but more so it makes me panic because I can’t breathe in any farther. I exhale, which doesn’t hurt, but when I breathe in again it’s still there. Once or twice it has gotten to the point I could only take very shallow short breaths but it has never lasted more than about a minute total. Like I said its a sharp pain in the middle of my chest.

So, do you have any idea why these things might happen?

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20 Answers

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
JLeslie's avatar

Number 2 is most likely just a muscle cramp in the chest. No big deal (if I am right). For some reason I think it is more common in young people, but my memory is not for sure on that.

Number 1 is a little odd. Do you have any sort of post nasal drip, runny nose type of thing daily? Or, wake up with a stuffy nose? That sort of thing is more likely to be a problem when sleeping flat on your back, and can slow your breathing. Also, laying on your back exacerbates sleep apnea, which would inhibit breathing, and could result in feeling heavy in your chest, but it being painful is what makes that a little odd.

Is the pain the same in both circumstances? Also, do you lift a lot during the day?

filmfann's avatar

Look at unusual heart rhythm.
Your second issue happened to me quite a bit as a child. Turns out, it was my heart skipping a couple beats, then giving a huge pump to restart.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
JLeslie's avatar

@filmfann That’s interesting. I have an arythmia that misses beats, but I don’t feel any pain from it. I do feel like my entire body shuts down for the moment the beat is missed. I can’t breath at all, can’t move. It makes me feel like I am going to wake up dead when it is happening a lot. I am only aware of it while resting, it acts up most when my thyroid is way off, which either turns up my heart rate, or turns it down, depending on whether I am hypo or hyperthyroid at the time.

JLeslie's avatar

Just thinking it through more, it probably could be the same muscle cramping in one and two. Something about the position. Maybe when you are on your side the muscle is unlikely to cramp. Kind of like it is unlikely to get a charlie horse in your calf muscle when your foot is flexed. Just a guess.

Next time you are at the doctor you could mention it. They will take a listen to your lungs amd heart. Maybe do a quick EKG. Probably they will find nothing.

JLeslie's avatar

@Rarebear What threw me a little is the pain is in the middle of her chest. I had this as a teen just as your link describes, on the left side.

Rarebear's avatar

It’s the same thing, most likely. It’s caused from the visceral pleura getting caught on the parietal pleura from a little inflammation. If you take a really deep breath it’ll generally uncatch and the pain will subside. Antiinflammatories will often help.

deni's avatar

@Rarebear That sounds like it could definitely be it. I will have to note whether the pain is exactly in the middle of my chest like I thought it was or if it is off to the side, maybe I just didn’t notice.

@JLeslie I always thought the first issue was weirder too, and it’s also caused me much more discomfort. I don’t have any type of sinus issue, never get stuffed up or runny or drippy. I’ve blown my nose like twice in my life lol. So….it’s weird, and I’d kinda like to be able to sleep on my back once in a while!

JLeslie's avatar

@deni Why? Sleeping on your side, especially your left side, is better for you.

deni's avatar

@JLeslie But every once in a while I just like to lay there like a corpse. I sleep probably half on my sides and half on my stomach, it’s not that it’s uncomfortable, but I’d just like to be able to sleep on my back if I want to. Like, if I’m sick and I’m trying to sit up in bed while I sleep to keep congestion down or whatever, it’s pretty much impossible when you can’t sleep on your back.

JLeslie's avatar

@deni Makes sense. Yeah, of course you want the option, no one wants to be restricted from a particular position. I understand. The good news is, you will most likely grow out of the problem.

Mariah's avatar

@JLeslie Out of curiosity, why is it better to sleep on your side and why especially left?

@deni The first issue sounds strange to me, but I think the second one is somewhat common? It happens to me sometimes.

JLeslie's avatar

@Mariah The way I understand it, side sleeping is better for the spine, especially if you place a thin pillow between your legs (which I don’t do personally) and rest your outside are on a pillow too. Then your spine is not twisted or pressed in any way. On your back, deoending on the mattress, your back might not be flat against the mattress, affecting the spine and the muscles that support your back, on your stomach you can be not in a completely stressless position also. The left side is because fewer major organs are there (again this is what I have heard) the liver, being a very large organ, is right side, and supposedly there is more room for the inside organs to have space if you sleep left, maybe better for digestion? I think that might be questionable though. I am a left side sleeper, just happens, not because I forced myself to be.

Mariah's avatar

@JLeslie That’s interesting, thanks!

knowsharry's avatar

since I’ve fallen out of shape, sleeping on my back is more difficult; the ‘core’ tone is very efficient in breathing. On the ‘angina’ (if it is) lack of oxygen can cause angina.It’s possible the breathing problem leads to lack of oxygen. It might be a physiological thing for you. So, it’s a guess, but they might be related in this way. There are other possibilities; and, like they say-you should see your doc.

Naniekso's avatar

I know this was posted a while back in this year but I thought I’d share something about the first issue. I recently broke my clavicle and am restricted to sleeping on my back and that is it. For the first two weeks I didn’t have a problem but then eventually every time I’d wake up in the morning, i’d have a pain in the back of my Lungs, kind of lower part as well, when ever I’d try breathing. It’s been 3 and a half weeks now and am still having the issue. Because I’m in that position for about 9 hours, I wake up and can only take tiny gasps of air until eventually most of the pain goes away and it’s easier to breathe. I assume this is the same thing happening to you. I don’t know what to do about it, since that is the only way I can sleep, other than deal with the pain in the mornings. I personally think it has something to do with my shoulders blades or back of my ribs pressing into my lungs but I obviously don’t know if that’s true.

deni's avatar

@Naniekso Interesting, sounds like the same thing. It’s unfortunate that you’re restricted to that. Maybe next time you see the doctor if you happen to mention it, let me know what they say! It always slips my mind when I’m at the doctor because I’m always there for another reason.

hari's avatar

hey deni,

I recently joined this forum and came across ur question. I have similar issues sleeping on my back and when I do that I cant get enuf air and end up feeling tired and having something similar to sleep apnea.
I showed myself to a Postural Research Instititue (PRI) therapist and they said my posture was bad due to a hyperextended back, lordosis that causes this kind of trouble.
They have recommended certain exercises and I think you can also consult someone from such an institute in ur area to see if a bad posture is causing breathing troubles. hope u get over them soon.

cheers
hari

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