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Old 08-03-2016, 04:55 PM
4,499 posts, read 2,771,136 times
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This has been happening for about 6 months. I drift off to sleep normally and then all of the sudden I wake up and feel like I can't breath and/or my heart stops beating. I generally flail around like a fish out of water for the first few seconds until I wake up. As you can imagine, this is really starting to get on my wife's nerves sleeping next to me. After this it usually takes about 5-10 minutes to get my bearings and get my heart rate back to normal. Sometimes it doesn't happen and sometimes it happens 2-3 times per night but once I fall fully asleep I stay asleep until morning.

I've talked to two doctors and they both said it sounds more like stress/panic attacks then a medical issue like apnea. I've tried things like taking melatonin or benadryl before bed which does make me drowsy but it doesn't stop these attacks.

Anyone else ever experience anything like this? I am trying to get approved for sleep study just to rule out medical but it's hard with HMO and doctors who are pushing back.
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Old 08-03-2016, 04:59 PM
5,563 posts, read 7,645,236 times
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Get new doctors that support you and a sleep study.
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Old 08-03-2016, 05:47 PM
Location: colorado springs, CO
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I have this too & have had it since I was a little girl.

I find it happens more often when I am sleep deprived.
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Old 08-03-2016, 05:50 PM
Location: West Virginia
12,125 posts, read 29,960,862 times
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Not Sleep deprived AIR deprived. Both need to see another doctor.
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Old 08-03-2016, 05:54 PM
Location: SC
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Agreed: Air Deprived... Check your room for allergens, check you nose to see if it is plugged when you lay on one side or the other.
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Old 08-03-2016, 06:01 PM
4,499 posts, read 2,771,136 times
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Thanks all. Yes, I definitely think it could be air deprivation but the argument both doctors have made is that it only happens when I'm falling asleep. If it was air/apnea it would happen in the middle of the night too. But yeah I need to get the sleep study or move onto my third primary care of the year.
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Old 08-03-2016, 06:24 PM
Location: Tucson for awhile longer
8,874 posts, read 12,928,374 times
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It sounds like you might have a sleep disorder commonly known as night terror.

While night terror is often accompanied by bad dreams that seem to be the cause of the flailing and wakening with panic symptoms, sometimes the sufferer doesn't remember any dreams and just gets the physical symptoms, which may be a response to stress, but may also be physiological.

In fact, awakening shortly after falling asleep is a symptom of some of the other types of sleep disorders that can befall people any time from childhood to old age (actually there are more than 100 types). Unfortunately, there is no simple cure to many sleep disorders, night terror (and delayed sleep phase syndrome — what I've had all my life) being just two of the common ones.

Most general practitioners don't have much education about sleep disorders and their solution is often just to drug the patient so sleep is deeper. This is NOT a good solution because it can cause other serious problems. If you can't see a certified sleep specialist, often neurologists or psychiatrists are able to diagnose sleep problems.

No matter who you choose, make sure they have access to an actual sleep clinic. I've logged a lot of time in a sleep clinic (participating in research projects even long after I was diagnosed). It's sort of like checking into a clean but minimalist motel. You show up with your suitcase and get ready to go to bed. Before you do, a technician will glue electrodes to various points on your head. The wires attached to the electrodes are plugged into a console beside your bed. While you are sleeping, the tech(s) is monitoring all the different people in the different rooms on a computer. If you can't sleep that's OK, but you just have to lie there. The tech can see what phase of sleep you're in, when your sleep in disturbed, when you're dreaming, when you're awakening, etc.

If you don't awaken yourself fairly early in the AM, a tech will wake you up when they need to do their shift change. They'll remove the electrodes and glue stuff before they send you home or off to work. It doesn't hurt a bit and finding out what's really wrong with you can be comforting and helpful. Depending on what's wrong, they might want to monitor you for more than one night.

If you live near a university teaching hospital or a regional psychiatric clinic, they usually have sleep clinics in their hospitals. I agreed to participate in a long study that was collecting data about the correlation of sleep disturbances to clinical depression, so I got my treatment for free from a very respected clinic, Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic in Pittsburgh. Yale and Cal Berkeley were two of the other clinics that provided data to that particular years-long study. You don't have to do that, of course, but if your insurance won't cover your treatment, it might be an option to join a study group.

Other clinics are run by private doctors. Here is a website that might help you find a certified sleep specialist.
Find an AASM-Accredited Sleep Facility - Sleep Education

Best of luck. I'm sure your problem seems baffling and is disturbing to both you and your wife; the best response is to get a professional diagnosis.
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Old 08-03-2016, 06:28 PM
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It happens to my husband when he sleeps on his back. If he's on his side, he's fine.
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Old 08-03-2016, 07:42 PM
Location: Albuquerque, N.M.
162 posts, read 83,254 times
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Check out research on sleep shudders

I've also seen reports that say this is an evolutionary thing, that your body wants you to make a "final check" for safety before going into deep sleep.
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Old 08-03-2016, 08:23 PM
Location: WA
865 posts, read 400,219 times
Reputation: 2632
I have myoclonic seizures, about 50-100 every night. It takes about 2 hours for me to fall asleep. I've had it for as long as I can remember, at least 30 years, but the scary thing is that they have increased incrementally and today they are worse than ever. The muscle spasms are so violent air is expelled from my lungs like I'm getting punched in the gut.

Seizures medications are available, but my experience with some of them fit the term "cure worse than the disease." They can leave you in a brain fog or with memory lapses and blackouts.

So I've learned to live with them and just hope they don't get worse. I'm on the verge of going back to the doctor, because the lack of sleep is starting to affecting my quality of life. I get about 5 - 6 hours of sleep when I really want 8.
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