General Question

tirithalui's avatar

Have you ever woken up to find you couldn't breathe?

Asked by tirithalui (408points) July 21st, 2008

Several times in the past few years I have woken up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t breathe. I don’t know why but I just couldn’t. When it happens I usually panic (wouldn’t you?! :P ) and thrash about in an attempt to catch a breath which eventually happens…
This is obviously a tad scary and I was wondering if it could be something potentially serious, or is my wind pipe trying to kill me?


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14 Answers

syz's avatar

You need to go to a sleep clinic and be checked for sleep apnea.
Information available at

XCNuse's avatar

It’s called sleep apnea, yea.. beat to it, a friend of mine did a paper on this for her term paper this year, creepy stuff, I don’t know what to do I guess just go to that website.

All I know is yes it is potentially lethal, and it is known for killing some people.

invisiblesplosions's avatar

Don’t panic. Although sleep apnea can have “fatal consequences,” so can everything else. It’s fairly common, affects about 1 in 200 people, and can be monitored and treated. Since it has only happened sporadically, you probably don’t have a bad case of it (some people are affected by it several times a night!). Just make an appointment with a sleep disorder specialist and get it checked out.

kevbo's avatar

Ditto. Ask your doc for a sleep study ASAP. Go to an accredited place or at least one associated with a hospital or medical practice, not a fly-by-night operation out of a hotel room. Untreated, it’s a slow road to a heart attack or stroke. I would guess that it’s probably worse than you think. In my case, I only woke up a couple of times gasping for air, but during my sleep study I had episodes every 30 seconds and my oxygen saturation (level) dropped to about 60%. Normal is around 95%.

shilolo's avatar

While I agree with the above comments that sleep apnea is a distinct possibility, there are a number of other possibilities as well including asthma, pulmonary hypertension, and heart disease. You should first see your doctor for a complete evaluation, and then let her decide whether to order a sleep study.

Kay's avatar

Have you ever had anxiety problems? I’ve definitely had this happen to me when I’ve been going through really stressful times in my life when I haven’t been managing my anxiety/stress.

susanc's avatar

Thank you shilolo for referring to the doctor as “her”. And I too want tirithalui to
be very serious about this. kev, it scares me to imagine you with an oxygen level of 60%. Very scaresome.

kevbo's avatar

Yeah, it was awful towards the end (of my ignorance of the problem, that is). I’d wake up some days unable to move, and I was calling in sick at least once every two weeks, which isn’t sustainable, of course. It’s all better now, though.

shilolo's avatar

No problem Susanc. My wife is a doctor, so I am sensitive to this issue.

anonyjelly16's avatar

I would contact an ENT doctor and have him order a sleep study immediately. They might get you either a CPAP (or a BI-PAP) machine. Or, they might require surgery. Either way, please do get it checked out asap.

tirithalui's avatar

oh right. Craziness. Seems pretty serious then. Lucky both my parents are doctors I suppose!! Will talk to them asap…
Cheers guys.

JackAdams's avatar

My buddy did.

He has one of them St. Barnyard dogs, and one morning he woke to find that it was standing on his chest, licking his face.

August 26, 2008, 1:59 PM EDT

bunnygrl's avatar

I’ve suffered from this most of my life, both while I’m awake and yes during the night I would wake up and my breathing would just stop. People assume that you’re choking on something but thats not it, it literally is just that your windpipe closes and you can’t get a breath to go in or out. My dr a few years ago saw one and put me on inhalers for asthma. I have a brown one (steroid) that I take in the morning to make sure my lungs keep clear, and a blue (ventolin sp?) which has helped during attacks although not always. It is terrifying and I’ve always known that its how I’ll die someday. I’m resigned to that and there are worse ways to die. I got very close once, a few years ago, and started to lose conciousness. What has helped me enormously is that I’ve learned that I have to avoid the panic. When it happens grab hold of something or better still someone’s hand and close your eyes and don’t struggle. Don’t even try to breath for a second then breath in when you’re calm. It’s not easy it’s taken me years but I swear it works, and even helped me avoid an attack a couple of times, honestly. It’s the panic that is your enemy and causes your windpipe to close, even in your sleep. It’s fight or flight = panic = you wake up desperately struggling to breath and making that horrible noise when you are fighting to drag in a breathe. If you can just concetrate very very hard on being calm it will help, your body relaxes and so does the spasm thats closed your windpipe.

As our fellow jellies have said though, see a doctor and explain it all to him, and if he doesn’t get it see another one because not all doctors do. I was lucky that my dr got to see one happening. Hope you get some help honey because it is a truely terrifying, horrid thing to experience. I have a phobia now of choking, even drinking at times is scary in case something happens. Don’t let that happen to you honey, get a dr to help. <throws mountains of hugs> xx

tirithalui's avatar

Very late update but I have been diagnosed with sleep apnea! I stop breathing 15 times every hour when I sleep! It’s explained a lot of thing to me, including my being tires a lot of the time.

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