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I wake up and I can't breath! Help

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I wake up and I can't breath! Help

Postby Huntley Bill » Tue Dec 28, 2010 12:36 pm

Last night I was suddenly awakened and could not breath. It was like I had the wind knocked out of me. I could force a breath out but NOT in. After what seemed like an eternity, I was slowly able to breath in. This happened to me once before about 8 months ago. At that time, I thought it was an isolated incident, but now I am not so sure. It scared my wife so bad she doesn't want me to ever sleep again. I guess it is a good thing that it wakes me up, but I am not sure what this is.

Question: Is this type of thing from sleep apnea?
I have heard that apnea sometimes causes you to stop breathing but this is different, or is it???

Any help would be appreciated.
Thank you
Huntley Bill
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Postby ApexAZ » Tue Dec 28, 2010 12:51 pm

Hi Bill,

Welcome to the forums.

Without being a doctor myself I can't really say if this is symptomatic of sleep apnea. I think it could be but I would think it would be more related to central apnea but again, I'm not a doctor. There could be a plethora of other possible causes that I'm not even aware of.

Regardless of the cause, it may be a good idea to visit a doctor (maybe a pulmenologist?) who specializes in sleep medicine. Maybe consult your primary care physician for a referral.

That sounds very scary and I hope you come to an answer soon.
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Postby Linda » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:14 pm

Hi Bill,

Brian's advice is smart. Seek a doctor. A pulmonologist is a good idea, because they usually know all about sleep apnea. Plus if it's not sleep apnea but some other breathing issue, a pulmonologist is the right choice.

To know for sure if you have sleep apnea, you have to be tested, and that has to be ordered by a physician like the pulmonologist (but any doctor can order a study). Not everyone who has sleep apnea has all the symptoms. Some may have only one or two that they know of. But here are a few questions: Are you unusually tired during the day? Do you wake up more than once during the night, for bathroom breaks? Do you snore? Do you ever wake up with morning headaches? Do you have high blood pressure and are you treated for it? There are other symptoms as well. But again, keep in mind, you might not have all of them yet still have sleep apnea. I have heard of untreated sleep apnea patients experience what you describe; it could be an indication of something wrong like sleep apnea. So you owe it to yourself to be checked out. Let us know how it goes.

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Postby SleepyToo » Tue Dec 28, 2010 1:18 pm

Bill, do you have any other symptoms that would be helpful for the doc to know - sweating during the night, waking up to go to the bathroom, heart racing and or beating irregularly? Does it occur any other times? Are you sleepy during the day? Do you have headaches when you wake up? Do you have high blood pressure, and/or diabetes? Is there a history of snoring in your family? Did anyone in your family who has passed away die in their sleep?

I would take this very seriously and get it sorted by a doc ASAP - you might want a neurologist as well as a pulmonologist, but definitely a sleep specialist as it occurs during your sleep.
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RE: I wake up and can't breathe

Postby Fyreangel » Sun Jan 16, 2011 2:07 pm

Hi Bill,

I have had the same exact thing over many years sporadically. I will wake up from a sound sleep, doesnt matter if its laying down in bed or napping on the recliner, and I cant breathe - cant draw in breath at all for a few seconds. It seems like a life time and you feel like you are going to die!! What I learned about this for me personally is that it was related to sleep apnea although obstructive and not central. Now as I said, this is me personally. Before I had my sleep study ( and its the main thing that prompted me to go for a sleep study ) I learned a trick that worked for me. First of all, try not to panic. I know thats easier said than done but panicking makes it worse. I was told what was happening is that my airway had collapsed and created a sort of vacuum. The harder you try to gasp in a breath ( and do you always try to do this by instinctively opening your mouth to gulp in a breath?? ), the more vacuum pressure it creates. The trick is to apply a counter to the vacuum pressure. What works for me is breathing through my nose slowly. No mouth breathing to get a breath at all. I find that I had no problem then in breathing and after a few long seconds, my airway would relax enough to be able to breathe through my mouth again. The other thing that will usually work if breathing through your nose does not, is applying the counter pressure by blowing a little breath out. I know this is really hard to do when you are in a panic becuz you cant breathe, but try it if the nose breathing doesnt help. I have tried both ways and they both work. At any rate, in my case, the sleep doctor said this was definitely apnea related, my sleep study showed apnea events of in the high 90's per hour and I am now on a bipap machine and I have not had any trouble at all. Hope this helps!!
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Postby LTee43 » Sun Jan 16, 2011 10:20 pm

Before I had my CPAP, I recall waking up twice with the same thing going on. Once was in bed, I woke up and felt like I was being suffocated. My throat tissue must have gotten stuck together and my airway was closed. A few sips of water in the bathroom got it open again. The second time, I was asleep on the couch and my wife saw me get up and I croaked out that I couldn't breathe. I took a few sips of water again from the kitchen sink and was able to breathe again. Both times my heart was pounding and I felt awful for the next few days.

This is what got me to have UPPP surgery (maybe not applicable in anyone else's case...) and finally on the CPAP. If you are not using one, start with your family doctor and go from there.

Not to scare you or anything, I felt that I was close as I could be to heart failure or a stroke both times. Good luck!

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